There is a growing problem in the United States with people abusing opiates. According to the 2010 “National Survey on Drug Use and Health,” approximately 359,000 individuals reported either dependence on or abuse of heroin, and 1.92 million individuals reported either dependence on or abuse of prescribed painkillers.
Due to this epidemic, research is constantly being done in order to find new ways to fight opiate addiction.
Opiate Addiction Treatment
One of the newer options that doctors can use to treat opiate addiction is a drug called naltrexone. It is an opiate antagonist, which binds to and blocks the opiate receptors in your brain. Naltrexone prevents receptors from being activated by agonist compounds, such as heroin or hydrocodone. It is also reported to reduce cravings and to prevent relapse. Naltrexone can prevent people from feeling the type of high they previously felt when they were taking opiates.
Naltrexone requires patients to be free of opiates for a period of time before beginning the treatment. It literally displaces the opiate from the receptors it seeks out, which can induce withdrawal symptoms. For that reason, it requires patients to completely detox from opiates. This is generally suggested to be a seven- to 10-day period.
This requirement can often be a problem for some addicts to achieve. For patients who have a problem relapsing or cannot commit to abstinence from opiates, daily oral doses of naltrexone may not be a viable solution. For these people, a monthly injection of extended-release naltrexone can improve their chances of success with recovery.
How Naltrexone Is Different
Two medications traditionally used to treat an opiate addiction are methadone and buprenorphine. Unlike Naltrexone, methadone and buprenorphine are controlled substances.
Methadone is an opiate agonist, buprenorphine is a partial opiate agonist, and naltrexone is an opiate antagonist.
One of the benefits that naltrexone offers is that any healthcare provider who is allowed to prescribe medication is able to prescribe it to patients. Doctors do not need special training and patients do not need to attend a daily clinic to receive the medication. This may improve the access patients have for addiction treatment.
Importance of Addiction Rehab
One point that is important to understand is that, for most patients, medications alone are not enough to treat opiate addiction. Treatment in a professional addiction rehabilitation center is also needed to be successful when fighting the disease of addiction.
Individual counseling with a trained addiction counselor or physician provides patients with the necessary tools and knowledge to overcome the disease.
If you or someone you know is abusing drugs or alcohol, the most important step you can take is to ask for help. It can mean the difference between life and death.