Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist that’s used to treat opioid addiction, alcohol use disorder and other types of substance abuse. It blocks the effects of opioids and cuts down cravings for them.
It does not have any of its own addictive properties, but some people – particularly those with a pre-existing medical condition or a history of alcohol abuse – may be unable to take it as an oral medication in standard doses. Low-dose naltrexone offers a solution to this problem by reducing the side effects while retaining the drug’s effectiveness in reducing cravings and the risk of relapse.
In this article, we explain why low-dose naltrexone is preferable to standard naltrexone, how you can get a prescription for it and what potential side effects you should be aware of before taking it.
What Is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone – also known as naloxone or nalmefene – is an opioid receptor antagonist that’s used to treat opioid addiction, alcohol use disorder and other types of substance abuse. It blocks the effects of opioids and cuts down cravings for them, allowing people to live a normal life without becoming addicted to prescription painkillers or needing to consume large amounts of illicit drugs.
It’s not a long-term solution, and will need to be combined with long-term therapy and support groups to control dependency and prevent relapse. But it can help people get over the initial stages of withdrawal and be able to focus on long-term recovery. It may also be used in combination with other medications, particularly in cases where opioid medications are needed.
Naltrexone comes as a tablet that you need to take every day. It’s usually taken orally, but can be injected in rare cases where daily dosing isn’t possible. You’ll need to take this medication for the rest of your life, but it could save your life and improve your quality of life in the process.
Who Can Use Low Dose Naltrexone?
If you’ve got a history of alcohol abuse, liver problems or diabetes, your doctor may not be able to prescribe the standard dose of Naltrexone and you may be offered a lower dose instead.
Some people may also be given a lower dose as a first attempt at taking this medication, so your doctor will be able to advise you on whether you’d benefit from a reduced dose.
The reduced dosage of naltrexone is intended for people who have a high risk of adverse effects from a standard dose, due to a pre-existing condition.
These conditions and circumstances vary depending on the prescribing physician, but there are some general guidelines that apply to most cases.
Generally, you should be offered a reduced dose if you have any of the following conditions:
- Liver disease or liver damage
- Kidney disease or kidney damage
- Autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and psoriasis
- Major heart disease
- A history of alcohol abuse or alcoholism
- A history of drug abuse or opioid dependency
How to Get a Prescription for Low Dose Naltrexone
It’s important that you discuss your medical history with your doctor before they prescribe you low-dose naltrexone. You’ll need to tell them about any pre-existing conditions you have, as well as any other medications you’re taking. You’ll also need to commit to taking this medication every single day without missing a dose.
Make sure you know what the potential side effects are, and whether they’re likely to be a problem for you. Some people experience a reduction in positive emotions, for example, but for others this can be a major problem. If you experience severe side effects from low-dose naltrexone, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to continue taking it.
Side Effects of Low Dose Naltrexone
- Reduction in positive emotions, such as enthusiasm and energy
- Reduced sexual desire
- Lack of motivation
- Reduced ability to fall asleep
- Dry mouth
- Mouth ulcers
- Sore throat
- Dry eyes
- Slight increase in blood pressure
- Slight increase in heart rate
These are the main side effects that you may experience while taking low-dose naltrexone, though they may vary from person to person. If you experience any of these while taking the medication, it’s highly recommended that you discuss them with your doctor.
They may be able to change your dosage or switch you to a different medication, though this is likely to make the side effects worse.
How to Use Low Dose Naltrexone
You’ll need to take the naltrexone every day as part of a daily routine, without missing a dose. If you miss a dose, you’ll need to take two doses the following day, one for the missed dose and one for the next day.
You should also avoid taking naltrexone after a certain time at night, depending on your dosage. Check the label on your medication to see what time you need to stop taking it by.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, it’s very important that you follow your doctor’s instructions for taking low-dose naltrexone extremely carefully.
Naltrexone is an anti-addiction medication used to treat opioid addiction, alcohol use disorder, and other types of substance abuse. It blocks the effects of opioids and cuts down cravings for them. It is not a long-term solution, but could help people get over the initial stages of withdrawal and focus on long-term recovery.
If you’ve got a history of alcohol abuse, liver problems, or diabetes, it’s possible you’ll be given a lower dose of naltrexone. Some people may be given a lower dose as a first attempt at taking naltrexone, so your doctor will be able to advise you on whether you’d benefit from a reduced dose.
The reduced dosage of naltrexone is intended for people who have a high risk of adverse effects from a standard dose due to a pre-existing condition.
You should be offered a reduced dose if you have any of the following conditions: liver disease or liver damage, kidney disease or kidney damage, major heart disease, a history of alcohol abuse or alcoholism, a history of drug abuse or opioid dependency.