Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication for opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder. It was first discovered in 1969 – over 50 years ago! Yet, it did not meet its claim to fame until 1972, when the United States Congress passed the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act to combat substance misuse.
Newer research shows that low-dose naltrexone (LDN) can also treat many other conditions. Here we discuss what LDN is, how it works, and what to avoid when taking it.
What is Naltrexone, and What is it Used For?
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist. This means it works by blocking the opioid and endorphin receptors in the body. As a result, users experience lesser cravings for substances such as opioids and alcohol.
Research shows naltrexone users have a higher percentage of opioid-free weeks than those taking a placebo. On top of that, up to 36% of OUD patients using naltrexone report complete opioid abstinence.
Similarly, clinical trials show twice as many alcohol-dependent patients can abstain from alcohol on naltrexone compared to placebo.
How to Take Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is available in two forms:
- A 50 mg oral tablet
- A 380 mg intramuscular (IM) injection
Healthcare professionals prefer the IM injection even though it's more painful for two reasons:
- Its effects last for one month instead of only a few days, as with the oral tablets. Thus it will work in patients who are non-compliant with daily medications.
- It is the preferred option for patients who cannot swallow the oral formulation.
How is Naltrexone Dosed?
Naltrexone dosing differs based on the formulation.
For instance, dosing of the oral tablet can range between 25 and 100 mg depending on the patient’s substance history and health. Doctors usually begin the treatment at a dose of 25 mg and increase it steadily as long as users do not experience withdrawal.
On the other hand, healthcare providers administer the IM injection monthly in a fixed 380 mg dose.