- What is Naltrexone therapy, and why is it important for opiate addiction?
- What is the Naltrexone implant?
- Why use the Naltrexone implant instead of the oral tablets?
- Does Naltrexone therapy have any risks and side effects?
- How long should I be on Naltrexone therapy?
- What happens after Naltrexone implantation?
- What is the risk of overdosing following treatment?
Our ultimate goal with Accelerated Opiate Detox (AOD) is for patients to begin a life of abstinence — rather than treating addiction with a maintenance program that uses other opiates, such as Suboxone® or methadone. We recognize that recovery is a challenging path to walk, filled with many opportunities for relapse. So, after AOD, we use Naltrexone therapy to help patients focus on their psychological healing without the temptations to use again.
Naltrexone is a non-addictive, non-narcotic medicine that attaches to the brain’s opiate receptors and completely blocks them. As a result, patients feel no effect from opiates while on Naltrexone and experience virtually no drug cravings.
We believe that 12 months of Naltrexone therapy gives patients the best chance for lasting recovery. This support allows their brain to physically heal from the opiates’ damage while they build the psychological tools and strength they need to Stay Clean for life.
We use a special Naltrexone formulation that releases the medicine slowly over an eight-week period. This small implant goes under the patient’s skin, so they experience a steady dose of opiate blockers and don’t forget or skip their medicine. Licensed pharmacists at a compounding pharmacy manufacture the implant for us. While the Naltrexone implant has not yet been submitted to the FDA for approval, the medications it contains are fully approved by the FDA.
When patients get a steady dose of Naltrexone every day for a prolonged period of time, they have a much better outcome. They have fewer cravings, are more likely to abstain from drugs, and more often stay with their treatment and support groups. Patients' improved outcomes may be physical, because they have a more steady blood level and don’t forget their medicine. We also believe the results may be partly psychological, because once a patient receive their implant, they don't have to decide every day whether or not to take their Naltrexone or consider relapsing.
As with any medical procedure, Naltrexone therapy carries some risks and potential problems. While small and typically painless, the Naltrexone implant does require local anesthesia for insertion. As a result, some patients experience the following symptoms at the implant site:
In addition to these implant risks, Naltrexone therapy can cause withdrawal symptoms if a patient isn’t fully detoxed when treatment begins. To avoid these risks, we carefully monitor patients before beginning Naltrexone therapy and only start treatment when they have completed their Accelerated Opiate Detox.
We strongly believe that patients should be on Naltrexone therapy for at least 12 months after completing their detox. Recent research shows that it takes a year or more for the brain to fully heal from addiction. And we know that it also takes at least a year for people to learn about alcoholism and recovery, build up a support system, and integrate all of the recovery changes into their lives. Having Naltrexone therapy during the first stages of recovery helps prevent patients from relapsing while giving them time to invest in their long-term health.
Opiate dependency is a complex brain disease, and we know that detoxing is just the beginning of recovery. From our experience, ongoing treatment and support are the keys to breaking free from addiction. We require all of our patients to be willing to participate in an appropriate treatment program, which may include individual professional therapy and supportive group treatment. Through our Stay Clean program, we help patients find the resources they need and create a plan for their recovery after Naltrexone therapy begins. We also encourage patients to begin seeing a physician who specializes in substance abuse.
Accelerated Opiate Detox clears patients’ brains of all opiates, which means they are clean — but they also have no built-up tolerance for the substance anymore. We have all patients use Naltrexone therapy immediately following their detox to prevent cravings and provide some overdose protection if they do relapse. However, patients must know that when Naltrexone therapy ends, they will have a very low tolerance to any opiates. As a result, if they relapse, a dose that would have gotten them high before detox can be fatal after treatment.
Very rarely, patients may try to override their Naltrexone therapy and take a very large opiate dose in pursuit of a high. While Naltrexone is an opiate blocker that prevents most overdoses, it is possible to take enough opiates for the dose to be fatal.