Naltrexone Implants for Addiction Recovery Treatment
04/26/20: Naltrexone Implants
Naltrexone is one of the few drugs that can be incorporated into addiction recovery treatment programs to help those struggling with substance abuse to more easily overcome withdrawal symptoms. It has been instrumental in changing the lives of thousands of addicts for the better. Naltrexone tablets and injections are FDA-approved medications that reduce drug or alcohol cravings, making it easier for people to push through the early stages of addiction recovery when cravings are still very strong. It does this by blocking the pleasurable effects substances send to the reward center of the brain, which trains one’s brain to no longer associate the substance with positive effects. Naltrexone is common in tablet form and injectable liquid form, but did you know that you can actually receive a naltrexone implant? This article will provide information on how this amazing treatment works, and help you figure out if it is something you’d like to explore further with your doctor.
How does a naltrexone implant work?
Naltrexone implants resemble small pellets, and are inserted into the lower abdominal wall or around the umbilicus. The procedure is quick and relatively pain-free, with little to no downtime for recovery needed. Once it is in the muscle tissue, it will release a consistent dosage of naltrexone into the body for approximately 3 to 6 months. There is no removal procedure necessary, as the pellet will eventually be entirely absorbed by the body (George D. Kovacs, MD). This offers a convenient and stress-free experience that an oral or injection regimen does not.
How can a naltrexone implant help a person recover from addiction?
Naltrexone implants offer another option for people in early recovery to stay sober. Since the naltrexone binds to and inhibits opioid receptors, it reduces the pleasurable sensations that one might have formerly experienced from opioids and/or alcohol. Overtime, the brain will stop associating these harmful substances with good feelings, thus breaking the dependency and allowing the person to begin their journey of recovery with a clean slate.
However, as with any drug treatment or medication, the naltrexone implant is not a substitute for the hard work of addiction recovery. For optimum results, patients are strongly encouraged to supplement the drug treatment with individual therapy, group therapy, and peer support group attendance. The physical dependence is only a small part of the issues that allow addiction to persist in one’s life. If the other aspects such as trauma, stress, mental illness, home life, etc are not addressed and managed, long-term recovery is unlikely. It is crucial that the naltrexone implant is used alongside regular psychotherapy treatments as a supplement, rather than a replacement. If you truly want to become sober for life, it is necessary to uncover and remedy the root cause of the addiction so that it does not come back into your life.
Why an implant over oral tablet or injection?
Addiction recovery is an extremely emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing experience. It will likely be one of the most difficult journeys of a person’s life, which is why it can be such a relief when a person is able to simplify their treatments. These implants are especially helpful for those who may be forgetful or lack motivation to stick to a consistent regimen of taking medication or receiving injections (Sustainable Recovery). With the naltrexone implants, you can set it and forget it after the initial injection. The drug goes to work in your body without you having to do anything, which can be really helpful for someone who is stressed enough as it is with the recovery process. Plus, you don’t even have to make an appointment to go get it removed, as it conveniently absorbs in the body!
Benefits of Naltrexone
Why incorporate a naltrexone regimen into your recovery? In general (whether you choose the oral option, injections, or implant) naltrexone has a lot of potential to change a person’s life and help them to achieve sobriety more effectively and at a faster rate. These are the benefits you can expect from naltrexone treatment:
- Decrease in severity and frequency of withdrawal symptoms
- Reduced cravings for opioids and alcohol
- Increased likelihood of success for addiction recovery
- Reduced chances of relapsing
Potential Side-Effects of Naltrexone
Like any drug out there, naltrexone can cause some unwanted side-effects and risks. These may include:
- Poor appetite
- Muscle or joint pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Scar formation
Because the implant will be inserted into the abdomen, patients are advised to avoid overuse of the abdominal muscles until the first post-op check-up.
It is also crucial to refrain from taking opiates or drinking alcohol for a minimum of 7–10 days before your implant injection appointment to reduce the risk of withdrawal. Be aware that naltrexone leads to a reduced tolerance to opioids, so the risk for overdose will skyrocket with this medication and could be life-threatening.
The Future of Naltrexone Implants
Because Naltrexone implants are a fairly new technology, research is still being done on the effects and effectiveness of this treatment. This is one of the reasons that the implants themselves have not been FDA-approved yet. However, the handful of studies that have examined the drug’s effectiveness have been very promising. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 56 published the results of a study done in Norway, which showed that patients who used the naltrexone implant for 180 days had an average of 45 fewer days of heroin use and 60 fewer days of opioid use than members in the control group. Additionally, in the Drug and Alcohol Review, researchers examined a variety of data points from 9 studies that compared naltrexone implant treatment to either oral naltrexone or a placebo (no naltrexone at all). Across all 9 of these studies, naltrexone implants were shown to be significantly more effective than oral naltrexone, and significantly more effective than no treatment at all with the placebo group. These results, and results of other similar studies, indicate a promising future for these implants.
Can I get a naltrexone implant?
This technology is relatively new, so it may be difficult to find a doctor who is licensed and qualified to provide this treatment. However, this treatment can be very liberating for someone who has trouble sticking to a consistent schedule or remembering to take a pill every day, so for a lot of people, finding a doctor to perform this insertion is a priority. Depending on where you are located, you may need to travel quite a ways to find a specialist. Naltrexone implants can be life-changing for those struggling with addiction, and you can benefit as well!
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