Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist used to block the effects of narcotics and alcohol. Naltrexone blocks the "high" that is achieved by the use of these substances. Naltrexone is currently prescribed for people who abuse alcohol or for people who abuse opiates such as prescription pain medication or heroin. Naltrexone will block the effectiveness of small doses of alcohol or opiates. If a person on Naltrexone takes large doses of heroin or other narcotics, serious injury, coma or death may occur.
Alcohol and opiate abusers who are taking Naltrexone to block the effects of these drugs will, often times, stop taking Naltrexone in order to resume their use of alcohol, prescription medications or street drugs. Doctor's rely on their patients who are taking Naltrexone, to be highly motivated to change their lifestyles. Doctor's believe that if the euphoric feeling achieved by opiates or alcohol can be eliminated or reduced, the patient will have more of a chance to stay clean and/or sober. There is little evidence that this is the case.
The stated side effects of Naltrexone are: upset stomach, anxiety, nervousness and muscle or joint pain. More serious side effects include: confusion, drowsiness, hallucinations, vomiting, diarrhea, bone and joint pain, skin crawling, stomach pain, white bowel movements, skin rash and blurred vision. Some side effects such as nausea and vomiting have been severe enough for 5-10% of people using Naltrexone to discontinue use. Naltrexone has also shown to have toxic effects on the liver.
Although healthcare professionals claim that Naltrexone has no abuse potential and no adverse reactions if alcohol is consumed, there is potential to mask underlying problems by using this medication to curb cravings, without addressing by someone is choosing to drink or use drugs in the first place.
In the words of someone using Naltrexone for help with his alcohol abuse his opinion is clearly stated when he says "I chose not to take Naltrexone this morning, uncomfortable over the way it made me feel yesterday in spite of its effectiveness. Well, there's some insight as to why bi-polars stop taking their lithium....better to have the highs with the lows than a mediocre flat state. More skillful to help a person feel better sober than kill the potential for enjoyment, a better motivator."