Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Naltrexone Is and Isn't

What Naltrexone Is

It's an opioid blocker.  It blocks the opioid receptors in your brain, so that you no longer feel the warm glow we associate with drinking alcohol.

Your lower brain learns that drinking alcohol is no fun, and so cravings and compulsion disappear over time.  Eventually, usually between three and twelve months, the desire to drink is completely extinguished.  You really and truly won't care whether or not you drink alcohol.

What Naltrexone Isn't

A Normality Pill

You will not turn into a normal drinker who enjoys a few and knows when to quit.  The "You can still drink!" line has led some people into thinking that this is so, but it isn't.  You won't feel the happy-making effect of alcohol.

A New Dependence

Some people think they've come up with incisive criticisms when they deliver lines like "What will you do if you can't get naltrexone?" or "You're trading one drug dependence for another."  This is not so.  With targeted used of naltrexone, we take naltrexone before drinking alcohol.  When no naltrexone is available, we don't drink alcohol -- this is possible because the desire to drink has been diminished or (eventually) extinguished.  I no longer take naltrexone because I no longer drink, and I'm certainly not the only one.

A Sobriety Pill

You'll still feel relaxed and mellow.  You'll also still be unable to operate heavy machinery safely.  Some people think that they aren't drunk because they aren't feeling it the way they used to, but you still aren't safe to drive and you may still have bad reactions (such as throwing up) after ingesting too much.

A Sure-Fire Cure

About 10% of people are not helped by targeted opioid blockers because their addiction works via another mechanism (hypothesized to be GABA receptors).  Another 20% don't comply with the protocol -- once they realize that they're no longer enjoying the drinking, they ditch or screw around with the pill which blocks their chemical pleasure.  The remaining 70% are cured of the desire to drink, which is a pretty awesome success rate, but we need to be aware that "most" isn't "all."


Targeted naltrexone will not make you drink less.  Nothing will or can do that.  Most people find that they quite naturally begin drinking less because there's no longer any pleasure in it, but some don't, and those people still need to put the glass down once they're able to do it.  Habit and social pressure may need to be addressed separately from the actual addiction.

Overblown Hype

No, it's definitely not overblown hype.  It works.  Very well.

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