By We Level Up | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: August 4, 2023
Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Naltrexone?
Naltrexone and alcohol cannot be combined, as taking the medication requires abstinence. Naltrexone, a medication typically prescribed to treat alcohol dependence and opioid addiction, is vital in helping individuals achieve sobriety and overcome substance abuse challenges. However, while taking naltrexone, it is generally advised to avoid consuming alcohol. Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, acts by blocking the pleasurable alcohol effects, reducing cravings, and discouraging relapse. Drinking alcohol while on naltrexone may diminish its efficacy and heighten the risk of adverse reactions, potentially leading to unintended consequences for individuals seeking to overcome alcohol dependence.
What is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is a synthetic opioid receptor antagonist that binds to the brain’s opioid receptors and blocks the effects of opioids, thereby reducing the rewarding and euphoric sensations associated with these substances, including alcohol. By diminishing the pleasurable effects of alcohol and opioids, naltrexone helps decrease cravings, prevent relapse, and support individuals to maintain abstinence during recovery.
What is Naltrexone Used For?
Naltrexone is used for the following purposes:
- Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Treatment: Naltrexone is prescribed to help individuals reduce alcohol consumption and maintain sobriety by blocking the pleasurable effects of alcohol and reducing cravings.
- Opioid Addiction Treatment: It blocks the effects of opioids and reduces the risk of relapse.
- Opioid Overdose Reversal: In some cases, naltrexone can reverse opioid overdoses and prevent fatal consequences when administered by medical professionals.
- Self-Harm Prevention: Naltrexone has been studied for its potential role in reducing self-harming behaviors in specific individuals.
- Compulsive Behavior Disorders: Naltrexone is being investigated as a potential treatment for compulsive behaviors like gambling and binge eating.
- Fibromyalgia Management: In some cases, naltrexone has been prescribed off-label to help manage signs and symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. A chronic disorder with widespread pain, fatigue, muscle stiffness, and insomnia.
- Autoimmune Disorders: Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) is sometimes used off-label to modulate the immune system and potentially manage certain autoimmune conditions.
Oral naltrexone for alcohol treatment is administered in pill or tablet form. It is commonly prescribed to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid dependence. As an opioid antagonist, oral naltrexone works by blocking the effects of opioids in the brain, reducing cravings, and discouraging relapse.
It is an essential component of comprehensive treatment programs to support individuals on their journey to achieve sobriety and maintain long-term recovery.
Naltrexone injection, also known as Vivitrol, is a long-acting naltrexone. It is used to treat alcohol dependence and opioid addiction. Unlike the oral form, the naltrexone injection is administered intramuscularly once a month.
The extended-release nature of naltrexone for alcohol treatment injection provides continuous opioid receptor blockade, helping to reduce the rewarding effects of opioids and alcohol, thereby aiding in relapse prevention and supporting individuals in their recovery journey. Naltrexone injection is typically used with counseling and other support services as part of a comprehensive treatment approach.
Naltrexone Black Box Warning
Naltrexone carries a black box warning due to the risk of hepatotoxicity, which can cause severe liver damage. Close monitoring of liver function is crucial during treatment. Other warnings are:
- Risk of hepatotoxicity (liver damage).
- Potential interactions with other medications or opioids.
- Allergic reactions or hypersensitivity to naltrexone.
- The need to be opioid-free for at least 7-10 days before starting treatment.
- Possibility of withdrawal symptoms if used in individuals still dependent on opioids.
- Importance of notifying healthcare providers about any liver problems before starting treatment.
- Adverse effects on mood or mental health in some cases.
This is not an exhaustive list, and it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional to understand all the potential warnings and precautions associated with naltrexone use.
Side Effects of Naltrexone
Not everyone will experience these side effects; some individuals may have no side effects. If any side effects are persistent or bothersome, it’s essential to inform a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance.
Common side effects associated with naltrexone:
- Nervousness or anxiety.
- Abdominal pain or cramps.
- Decreased appetite.
- Muscle or joint pain.
- Diarrhea or constipation.
Before Using Naltrexone For Alcoholism
As with any medication, it is crucial to consult with a qualified alcohol treatment professional to ensure that naltrexone is the appropriate treatment for your specific situation and to receive personalized guidance throughout your treatment journey.
Before using naltrexone for alcoholism, you must:
- Inform your healthcare provider about medical conditions, especially liver or kidney problems.
- Disclose any history of opioid or alcohol use, including recent opioid use, to avoid potential interactions or complications.
- Be opioid-free for 7-10 days before starting naltrexone to prevent precipitated withdrawal.
- Discuss any drugs or supplements you are currently taking to avoid potential drug interactions.
- Understand and commit to the naltrexone alcoholism treatment plan, including counseling or support programs.
- Be aware of the possible side effects and risks associated with naltrexone use.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s dosing instructions carefully and attend regular check-ups to monitor your health, progress, and liver function.
Research Findings and Efficacy of Naltrexone for Alcohol Abuse
Numerous research has studied the efficacy of naltrexone for alcohol abuse, revealing promising results. The medication has shown the ability to reduce alcohol cravings and decrease the risk of relapse, particularly when combined with counseling or behavioral therapy.
Naltrexone has been associated with increased abstinence rates in motivated individuals seeking treatment for alcohol dependence. It has also demonstrated effectiveness in reducing heavy drinking episodes. However, individual responses to the medication may vary, and compliance with the prescribed treatment plan is crucial for achieving positive outcomes.
While naltrexone can be an essential component of alcohol use disorder treatment, it is typically most effective as part of a comprehensive approach that involves counseling and support services.
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Finding Effective Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder
The benefits of medications, such as naltrexone, used to treat alcoholism are significant, but they have limitations when used alone. While these medications can help reduce cravings, they do not ensure complete alcohol abstinence.
To achieve long-term recovery from alcohol addiction, combining these drugs with counseling or therapy is essential, as they work synergistically to support individuals on their journey toward sobriety. Contact the We Level Up alcohol and drug addiction treatment center to get started. We can help you explore several treatment options and levels of care.
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Naltrexone Dose for Alcohol Fact Sheet
Naltrexone for Alcohol Use Disorder
Naltrexone is used for alcohol use disorder treatment (AUD). It works by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors, which are involved in the rewarding effects of alcohol consumption.
By reducing the pleasurable sensations associated with drinking, naltrexone helps to decrease cravings and the desire to continue drinking, supporting individuals in their efforts to achieve and maintain sobriety. It is typically used as part of a comprehensive treatment approach that may include counseling or therapy to address the psychological aspects of alcohol addiction.
Naltrexone Dosage for Alcohol
Dosages of medications, including naltrexone, are prescribed by qualified healthcare professionals based on various factors, such as the following:
- The severity of the alcohol use disorder.
- The patient’s overall health.
- And any other medications they may be taking.
Typically, low dose naltrexone and alcohol treatment are initially prescribed for alcohol use disorder, and the dosage may be adjusted as needed by the healthcare provider. Commonly, oral naltrexone is specified as a daily dose, while the extended-release injectable form (Vivitrol) is administered once a month.
It is crucial to consult with an addiction treatment professional who can properly evaluate your medical condition and provide personalized advice regarding the appropriate dosage of naltrexone. Always follow the naltrexone for alcohol cravings guidance of your doctor, and never adjust your medication dosage without their approval.
Naltrexone Implant Alcohol Treatment
Naltrexone implants are a form of alcohol treatment that involves the insertion of a small pellet or capsule under the skin.
These implants release a controlled amount of naltrexone into the body over an extended period, typically lasting several months. This treatment aims to reduce alcohol cravings and deter individuals from drinking, as the continuous release of naltrexone helps block the pleasurable effects of alcohol. Naltrexone implants are often part of a comprehensive alcohol treatment plan, including counseling and support services, to aid individuals in their journey toward alcohol abstinence and long-term recovery.
Naltrexone Weight Loss Alcohol
Naltrexone is not typically used for weight loss purposes. It is primarily prescribed to treat alcohol use disorder and opioid dependence. However, some studies have explored the potential of naltrexone for weight loss due to its effect on specific brain pathways related to food reward and appetite control.
Regarding alcohol, naltrexone can effectively reduce alcohol consumption by blocking the pleasurable alcohol effects and cravings. This can indirectly impact weight management, as excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to weight gain due to its high-calorie content and effects on metabolism.
Nevertheless, it is essential to remember that naltrexone should only be used as prescribed by a healthcare professional for its approved indications and not as a weight loss medication. Any attempts to use naltrexone or any drug for off-label purposes should be avoided, as it may lead to adverse effects or unintended consequences. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider to discuss appropriate treatment options for any medical condition or concern. And do not mix naltrexone with alcohol.
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Naltrexone and Alcohol Statistics
Naltrexone is one of the medications commonly used as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder, along with other medications like acamprosate and disulfiram. Studies have shown that naltrexone medication can significantly lower alcohol cravings and the desire to drink in individuals seeking alcoholism treatment.
One challenge with naltrexone treatment is ensuring patient compliance and adherence to the medication regimen, as missed doses or premature discontinuation can impact its effectiveness.
About 85.6% of people aged 18 and older reported alcohol drinking at some point in their lifetime.
In 2019, an estimated 14.1 million adults aged 18 and older had alcohol use disorder, representing about 5.6% of the adult population.
During the same year, around 7.2% of US adult citizens aged 18 and older who needed alcohol use disorder treatment received it at a specialized facility.
Does Naltrexone Help With Alcohol Withdrawal?
Naltrexone is not typically used for alcohol withdrawal itself. Alcohol withdrawal is a potentially severe and life-threatening condition when individuals with alcohol dependence suddenly stop or significantly reduce their alcohol intake. It is characterized by a range of symptoms, including anxiety, tremors, nausea, seizures, and in severe cases, delirium tremens.
To manage alcohol withdrawal, healthcare professionals often use other medications, such as benzodiazepines, to help ease the symptoms and prevent complications. These medications are prescribed in a controlled and monitored setting to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Naltrexone, on the other hand, is used for the ongoing treatment of alcohol use disorder to reduce alcohol cravings and deter individuals from drinking. It is typically initiated once a person has completed the alcohol withdrawal process and is no longer at risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.
Suppose you or someone you care about is experiencing alcohol withdrawal or alcohol dependence. In that case, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention to receive appropriate care and support during this critical time. A qualified healthcare professional can guide the most suitable naltrexone alcohol withdrawal approach based on individual needs and circumstances.
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Naltrexone Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment and Detox
Naltrexone for alcohol treatment is not used to detoxify or manage acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Once an individual has completed the detoxification process and is no longer at risk of severe withdrawal symptoms, naltrexone can be initiated to aid in reducing alcohol cravings and preventing relapse. It works by blocking the pleasurable alcohol effects and discouraging individuals from drinking.
The use of naltrexone in AUD treatment should be carefully monitored by qualified healthcare professionals who can assess its appropriateness for each individual’s specific needs and provide guidance on its safe and effective use. Moreover, counseling and behavioral therapies are often recommended alongside naltrexone treatment to address the psychological aspects of AUD and improve overall treatment outcomes.
If you or a loved one is dealing with alcohol use disorder, contact We Level Up for the best treatment options.
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Top 3 Alcohol Naltrexone FAQs
What happens if you drink alcohol while taking naltrexone?
Drinking alcohol while taking naltrexone can lead to reduced effects of the medication and increased alcohol intoxication. Naltrexone blocks the pleasurable effects of alcohol, potentially making it less rewarding and leading to a higher risk of overconsumption and alcohol-related harm.
How does naltrexone work for alcohol?
Naltrexone works for alcohol by blocking the effects of opioids in the brain, including the endorphins released when alcohol is consumed. Doing so reduces the rewarding and reinforcing aspects of alcohol, helping to decrease cravings and the desire to drink, thereby supporting the individual’s efforts to abstain from alcohol drinking or reduce their alcohol consumption. Low dose naltrexone side effects alcohol medication include increased sedation and dizziness.
How long does naltrexone block alcohol?
The medication formulation determines the duration of naltrexone’s blocking effects on alcohol. The oral form of naltrexone alcohol cravings medication typically remains active in the body for about 24 to 72 hours. In contrast, the extended-release injectable form (Vivitrol) can block alcohol effects for approximately one month after administration. Following the prescribed dosing schedule is essential to ensure continuous coverage and support in alcohol use disorder treatment.
While naltrexone can be an essential component of alcoholism treatment, it is generally not enough to address the complex nature of alcohol use disorder. Comprehensive treatment for alcoholism often includes a combination of behavioral therapies, counseling, support groups, and lifestyle changes.
Naltrexone is more effective as part of a broader treatment plan, addressing the physical and psychological aspects of alcohol addiction. It is essential for individuals seeking help for alcoholism to work with healthcare professionals to create a personalized treatment approach that meets their specific needs and circumstances.
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Search We Level Up Naltrexone and Alcohol Detox, Mental Health Topics & Resources
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 Anton RF. Naltrexone for the management of alcohol dependence. N Engl J Med. 2008 Aug 14;359(7):715-21. Doi 10.1056/NEJMct0801733. PMID: 18703474; PMCID: PMC2565602.
 What is Naltrexone for Alcohol Treatment? – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
 Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Incorporating Alcohol Pharmacotherapies Into Medical Practice. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2009. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 49.) Chapter 4—Oral Naltrexone. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64042/
 REVIA® (naltrexone hydrochloride tablets USP) – Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
 Pharmacotherapy for Adults With Alcohol-Use Disorders in Outpatient Settings – Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (.gov)
 Study of Bupropion Versus Bupropion + Naltrexone for Smoking Cessation – National Cancer Institute (NCI)
 Transdermal Naltrexone for Alcoholism and Opiate Addiction – https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/detail/391322