Naltrexone is a prescription medication used for treating both alcohol use disorders and opioid use disorders. It works by blocking the brain’s opioid receptors, which create a feeling of euphoria when someone uses drugs or alcohol. By reducing the euphoric effects associated with alcohol, naltrexone also lowers alcohol cravings and reduces drinking among people receiving medication assisted treatment (MAT) for alcohol use disorder. Since naltrexone has these effects, people often wonder, “Can you drink on naltrexone?” Learn the full answer below.
Can You Drink While Taking Naltrexone?
Drinking while taking naltrexone is not dangerous in and of itself, but the intended purpose of this medication is to help you reduce your drinking. You will not become ill if you drink while on the medication, but for many people, the best option when in alcohol use disorder treatment is to avoid drinking altogether.
One thing to keep in mind when drinking on naltrexone is that while you may not feel the usual “buzz” or feeling of euphoria that hits when you’re under the influence of alcohol, you will still be impaired. This is because alcohol not only influences the body’s opioid receptors; it also increases levels of a brain chemical called GABA, which is responsible for the sedative effects and impairment of coordination that occur when someone is intoxicated.
Since naltrexone only acts as an opioid blocker, it will not stop the GABA-increasing effects of alcohol consumption. So the answer to, “Can you get drunk on naltrexone?” is actually yes, but you won’t feel the “buzz” associated with being drunk. This means that you may feel as if you are okay to drive or operate machinery when drinking on naltrexone, when in reality you are still impaired and could be placing yourself and others in danger.
In summary, drinking on naltrexone may not produce directly harmful side effects, but can still create dangerous and harmful situations, as you can find yourself impaired without experiencing the common-side effects of drinking.
Drinking Alcohol While Taking Naltrexone
In many cases, completely abstaining from alcohol consumption is the goal of a treatment program. While drinking on naltrexone may not be ideal for many people, some may choose to use this medication to simply cut back on alcohol use, so their consumption no longer reaches a dangerous level.
Naltrexone reduces alcohol cravings and significantly decreases the euphoric effects of alcohol consumption, which makes drinking less pleasurable. For heavy drinkers, taking naltrexone may allow them to reduce their drinking to a more moderate level. In fact, naltrexone has been found to be effective for reducing heavy drinking levels.
What To Avoid When Taking Naltrexone
If you’re taking naltrexone for alcohol use disorder, there are certain things you should avoid. First, if you are still drinking while taking naltrexone, you should avoid driving, operating heavy machinery, or engaging in other potentially dangerous activities when drinking. You may not feel like you are impaired since naltrexone blocks alcohol’s euphoric effects, but you could still be intoxicated.
You should also avoid taking opioid drugs, like hydrocodone, vicodin, or codeine while in naltrexone treatment. Since naltrexone blocks the opioid receptors, it may cause opioid withdrawal symptoms if you take these medications for a week or more. You may have to be very cautious about what medications you take, because some cough syrups contain opioids. Consult with a doctor to ensure that medications you are taking will not lead to opioid withdrawal. You also must consider that naltrexone blocks opioid receptors, so taking opioids while on naltrexone will make the opioids ineffective.