Mixing Naltrexone & Alcohol | Can You Drink While Taking Naltrexone?

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Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) are significant public health challenges in the United States, affecting millions of individuals worldwide and causing severe health, social, and economic consequences.

In 2019, an estimated 14.4 million adults had AUD, while 2.1 million people struggled with OUD in 2020. However, access to effective treatment remains limited, with only a small percentage of individuals receiving the necessary help. Medication-assisted treatment, such as naltrexone, has emerged as a crucial component in managing these disorders.

Understanding the risks and potential interactions between naltrexone and alcohol is essential for individuals considering or currently undergoing treatment. Let’s explore the mechanisms of naltrexone, its different forms, the risks associated with combining it with alcohol, and the importance of seeking professional help for addiction recovery.

What Is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, is a medication primarily used to treat Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD) and Opioid Use Disorders (OUD). It belongs to a class of drugs known as opioid receptor antagonists, which work by blocking the effects of opioids on the brain. Naltrexone helps reduce cravings and diminish the rewarding effects of alcohol and opioids, ultimately aiding in the recovery process.

As an opioid antagonist, naltrexone blocks opiate receptor occupancy, decreasing the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine being released from the nucleus of the brain. This helps to competitively displace opioid medications from their binding sites.

Naltrexone’s opioid antagonist properties may be beneficial for individuals with a history of opioid abuse/dependence who are seeking AUD treatment as it can decrease the rewarding effects and cravings for opioids and cravings for alcohol.

How Does Naltrexone Work?

Naltrexone works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain, effectively blocking the pleasurable and reinforcing effects of alcohol and opioids. By reducing the rewarding sensations associated with substance use, naltrexone can help individuals break the cycle of addiction. Naltrexone does not treat withdrawal symptoms that may arise once an individual stops the use of a substance abruptly but rather suppresses cravings for alcohol or opiate drugs. 

It is important to note that while naltrexone can be an effective tool in addiction treatment, it is most effective when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling and support.

Drinking Alcohol While Taking Naltrexone

If you’re considering taking naltrexone for addiction treatment or have already started the medication, you may wonder whether it’s safe to drink alcohol while using it. Naltrexone is a medication commonly prescribed to help manage opioid and alcohol cravings, but it’s crucial to understand the potential risks, adverse reactions, and effects of combining naltrexone with alcohol consumption.

While naltrexone can be an effective aid in addiction treatment, it does not provide a “green light” for drinking alcohol. It is important to note that naltrexone is not a cure for addiction, and abstaining from alcohol or substance use remains an integral part of the recovery process. Drinking alcohol while on naltrexone can potentially diminish the medication’s effectiveness and may increase the risk of adverse effects.

Risks of Mixing Naltrexone and Alcohol

Mixing naltrexone and alcohol can have unpredictable and potentially harmful effects. While naltrexone reduces the rewarding effects of alcohol, it does not eliminate them entirely. Some individuals may mistakenly believe that because they are taking naltrexone, they can safely consume alcohol without consequences. However, it is essential to understand that combining naltrexone and alcohol can still pose risks. Some possible risks of combining naltrexone with alcohol include:

  • Reduced Medication Effectiveness: Alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of naltrexone in reducing cravings and preventing relapse. When alcohol is consumed while taking naltrexone, it may diminish the medication’s ability to block the pleasurable effects of alcohol, potentially leading to increased alcohol consumption.
  • Intensified Alcohol Effects: Naltrexone does not alter the intoxicating effects of alcohol. Therefore, consuming alcohol while on naltrexone can result in heightened intoxication. This can lead to impaired judgment, coordination difficulties, and an increased risk of accidents or injuries.
  • Risk of Overdose: For individuals who have been previously dependent on opioids, naltrexone can block the effects of opioids, reducing the risk of overdose. However, if alcohol is consumed while taking naltrexone, the individual may be more prone to underestimate their opioid tolerance, which could increase the risk of overdose if opioids are used.
  • Liver Function: Both naltrexone and alcohol can have an impact on liver function. Drinking alcohol while taking naltrexone may further strain the liver and potentially exacerbate any existing liver conditions and even lead to liver failure. It is crucial to discuss any liver-related concerns with a healthcare professional.
  • Side Effects Intensification: Naltrexone and alcohol can both have side effects. Mixing the two substances may increase the severity or occurrence of certain side effects such as dizziness, nausea, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

It is important to note that the specific risks and interactions can vary depending on individual factors such as overall health, history of addiction, and dosage of naltrexone. Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice regarding the potential risks of mixing naltrexone and alcohol in your specific situation.

The goal of naltrexone treatment is to support recovery and promote abstinence from alcohol and opioids. It is advisable to prioritize sobriety and abstain from alcohol consumption during the course of naltrexone treatment.

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Side Effects of Naltrexone

Naltrexone is a medication that, like any other, has the potential to cause side effects. It’s essential to be aware of these potential effects as the interaction with alcohol can intensify these effects and pose additional dangers. 

Common naltrexone side effects include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain, or Gastrointestinal Discomfort

Mixing alcohol with naltrexone can result in increased sedation and drowsiness, impairing your ability to drive or operate machinery safely. It can also heighten the risk of coordination difficulties, confusion, and difficulty concentrating. These effects can be unpredictable and may significantly impact your judgment and cognitive abilities. 

Additionally, combining naltrexone and alcohol can also lead to an increased risk of liver damage. Both naltrexeon and alcohol can individually impact liver function, and their combination can exacerbate this risk. 

Effectiveness & Research

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) are serious conditions that require effective treatment. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medications for alcohol and opioid dependence, including disulfiram, acamprosate, and naltrexone. While topiramate has also been shown to be potentially effective, it has not received FDA approval for treating alcohol dependence. In some cases, a combination of therapeutic interventions may be required to achieve the optimal outcome.

Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication that has been shown to be effective in reducing heavy drinking and promoting abstinence in individuals with moderate-to-severe alcohol dependence. This drug is ideal for individuals who have failed attempts to quit drinking but are motivated to be abstinent or at least try abstinence for a while. It is recommended that individuals attempt to abstain from drinking for several days before starting naltrexone therapy, and medical assistance may be necessary to withdraw from alcohol safely.

It is important to note that medication-assisted therapy should be accompanied by psychosocial interventions such as counseling, support groups, and behavioral therapies to achieve long-term recovery. Seeking professional help for addiction recovery is crucial for individuals struggling with AUD or any substance use disorder.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or opioid addiction, seeking professional help is crucial. Addiction is a complex condition that often requires comprehensive treatment plans and approaches. Although there are many treatment options out there and it is essential to find a trusted facility with healthcare professionals who are dedicated to providing compassionate care and support to help you or your loved one achieve lasting recovery.

Find Support Near You Today

If you or someone you care about is battling addiction or abusing substances, don’t wait to seek help. At Riverside Recovery of Tampa, we understand the challenges of addiction and are here to support you every step of the way.

Contact us today to speak with one of our knowledgeable admissions team members and start your journey toward a healthier, substance-free life.

Recovery is possible, and you don’t have to face it alone. Reach out to us today and take the first step towards a brighter future.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and information regarding your specific situation.