Drugs Home > What Is Naltrexone Used For?

If you are struggling with alcohol or opioid dependence, your healthcare provider may recommend treatment with a medication called naltrexone. This prescription drug is an opioid receptor antagonist that works by binding to opioid receptors in the body. As a result, naltrexone blocks the effects that alcohol and opioids can cause. Some off-label uses for naltrexone include treating eating disorders and self-injurious behavior.

An Overview of Uses for Naltrexone

Naltrexone (Revia®) is a prescription medication classified as an opioid antagonist. It is approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence. It is also approved to block the effects of opioids. This may help prevent a relapse in people who are addicted to opioids, including prescription narcotic pain medicines and heroin.
 
Naltrexone is only approved for use in people who are opioid-free, which means it is started once you have stopped using opioids. It can cause severe withdrawal symptoms in people who are dependent on opioids and still taking them. Before starting treatment, your healthcare provider will ask you when you last used a narcotic pain medication or street drugs, and may do tests to see if the drugs are still in your body.
 
It is important to keep in mind that addiction is a complex illness, and successful recovery often requires a combination of several treatment approaches. Naltrexone is just one component of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. It works best if used alongside other types of treatment, such as counseling and support groups.
 
Naltrexone comes in the form of a tablet that is taken by mouth. It contains the same active ingredient as Vivitrol® (naltrexone injection). Vivitrol is also used in the treatment of alcohol and opioid dependence. However, Vivitrol is given by a healthcare provider once a month as an injection into a muscle (an intramuscular, or IM, injection).
 
Although naltrexone can be self-administered, your healthcare provider may recommend someone else give you the medication to make sure you are using it as prescribed. Make sure to follow your healthcare provider's recommendations closely. Naltrexone works best when taken as directed and if you want to stop using alcohol or drugs.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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