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Naltrexone and Vivitrol Side Effects

What Are the Side Effects of Naltrexone?

Naltrexone can be an extremely effective aid in the recovery process, but there are some potential side effects to be aware of. These may include:

  • Stomach upset.
  • Vomiting.
  • Headaches.
  • Trouble sleeping.

Read on to learn more.

When it comes to using medication as part of the rehabilitation process, a lot of users wonder whether the side effects of recovery meds are worse than the addiction itself. Anti-addiction medications like naltrexone can produce strong physical responses in some users, while others will experience no unpleasant reactions at all. Before you make the decision to use naltrexone, talk with your doctor about how to identify and avoid side effects.

What Naltrexone Does

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, which means that it counteracts the effects of drugs like heroin, codeine, morphine and alcohol. Marketed under the brand names ReVia and Vivitrol, naltrexone can be taken orally or injected to help opiate users and alcoholics stay clean and sober. A naltrexone implant and transdermal patch are also under clinical investigation in the US.

When you take naltrexone, the receptors in your brain cells that respond to opioid drugs or alcohol are blocked. As a result, you won’t feel the enjoyable effects of taking opiates or drinking. Without that incentive to keep using, you may have a greater chance of achieving a successful recovery.

Naltrexone can be an important tool in the fight against addiction, but this medication isn’t for everyone. According to the National Institutes of Health, naltrexone may be right for drug or alcohol users who meet the following criteria:

  • Participate in a medically supervised treatment program
  • Have a strong motivation to recover
  • Combine pharmacological therapy with counseling and group therapy
  • Don’t have an allergy to naltrexone
  • Are not pregnant, nursing or planning to become pregnant

*Effects of Prescription Painkiller Abuse

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that prescription drug abuse is on the rise in the United States, and the effects are sobering:

  • Almost three out of four prescription drug overdoses are due to by opioid pain relievers.
  • In 2008, prescription painkillers were involved in more than 14,800 overdose deaths.
  • In 2009, prescription painkiller abuse accounted for over 475,000 emergency department visits.
  • Over 12 million people reported that they had used prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons in 2010.

Naltrexone Side Effects

Some of the side effects of naltrexone are merely uncomfortable, while others can be life threatening. If you notice any of the following side effects, the NIH advises that you tell your doctor as soon as possible:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Rashes

When taken in large doses, naltrexone can cause liver damage, a condition that can be extremely dangerous. If you notice any of the following signs, contact your doctor right away:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Appetite loss
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding
  • Pain in the right upper abdomen
  • A yellowish color in your skin or eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Confusion
  • Depression

Patients who receive injections of naltrexone as Vivitrol may experience reactions at the injection site after receiving a shot. According to the FDA, these reactions may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Hardening
  • Bruising
  • Redness

How to Deal With Naltrexone Side Effects

If you take naltrexone, your doctor may advise you to wear a medical identification bracelet to let emergency personnel know that you’re taking this medication. A naltrexone overdose can be fatal; if you or someone you know takes too much of this drug, call your local poison control facility. If someone collapses or isn’t breathing after taking too much naltrexone, call 911.

Once you’ve made the commitment to use naltrexone in your recovery program, it’s very important that you don’t go back to drinking or using. Drinking too much alcohol or taking an overdose of drugs while you’re taking naltrexone may cause a coma or death. Use naltrexone only as prescribed by your doctor to get the maximum benefits with minimal side effects.

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