Naltrexone's Efficiency In Alcoholism And Drug Addiction

Knoxville, TN (PressExposure) July 31, 2009 -- Treatments used for different psychoactive substance addiction are as varied as the addiction itself. There are medications that could work for a specific addiction, such as disulfiram with alcoholism. But there are other medications that could cause death or any adverse effects when used on the wrong addiction, such as benzodiazepines with barbiturate addiction, especially in overdose. There is, however, an adult and adolescent addiction treatment that can be used for both alcohol and drug addiction. This medication is known as Naltrexone.

Naltrexone for alcoholism

Principally, naltrexone was used as medication for alcoholism. Unlike drug addiction treatment in which medications are used as substitute for illicit drugs, such as in the case of methadone and buprenorphine for illicit opiate drugs. Naltrexone, like any other medications used for alcoholism, is known to work by reducing the alcoholic's interest in alcohol, thus triggering slow cessation with alcohol use. Naltrexone works by blocking our ability to use endorphins. Alcohol releases endorphins, hence when naltrexone is in the body, drinkers no longer get any pleasure from consuming alcohol.

Naltrexone is used in two very different forms of treatment. The first treatment uses naltrexone to decrease cravings for alcohol and encourage abstinence. The other treatment, called pharmacological extinction, combines naltrexone with normal drinking habits in order to reverse the endorphin conditioning that causes alcohol addiction. This results in a reduced desire to drink that persists after naltrexone use is discontinued, as long as the patient always takes naltrexone before drinking.

According to several studies, naltrexone use as an an adult and adolescent addiction treatment has confirmed its efficacy in reducing frequency and severity of relapse to drinking. The multi-center COMBINE study has recently proved the usefulness of naltrexone in an ordinary, primary care setting, without adjunct psychotherapy.

Naltrexone for drug addiction

Naltrexone use as an an adult and adolescent addiction treatment for drug addiction differs in method. Usually, naltrexone is used for drug detoxification, particularly with heroin use. Naltrexone is sometimes used for rapid detoxification ("rapid detox") regimens for opioid dependence. The principle of rapid detoxification is to induce opioid-receptor blockade while the patient is in a state of impaired consciousness so as to attenuate the withdrawal symptoms experienced by the patient.

Although currently employed by several rehabilitation centers, rapid detoxification has been criticised by some for its questionable efficacy in long-term opioid dependence management. Rapid detoxification has often been misrepresented as a one-off "cure" for opioid dependence, when it is only intended as the initial step in an overall drug rehabilitation regimen. Although rapid detoxification is effective for short-term opioid detoxification, it costs approximately 10 times more than conventional detoxification procedures.

Though sustained-release preparations of naltrexone have shown rather promising results, they remain treatments only for a small part of the opioid dependent population, usually the ones with an unusually stable social situation and motivation.

About Donna Sparks

Donna Sparks is a Professor and a Consultant Physician. Other than her clinical and local teaching commitments, she also continues to enjoy the privileges of research, writing and lecturing.

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Press Release Submitted On: July 30, 2009 at 9:52 pm
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