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Naltrexone

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is a drug used to treat alcoholism and opioid addiction. It belongs to a group of drugs called opioid antagonists, which work by blocking the effect of opioid receptors and dramatically reducing cravings and urges to drink alcohol or take opioids. Along with counseling and other support, naltrexone treatment allows patients to maintain abstinence, reduce the harms related to the use of these substances, and improve their quality of life. Naltrexone is taken in the form of tablets, injections, or implants. The length of the treatment greatly depends on each patient’s needs and situation.

Overall Health Benefits of Naltrexone

  • Treats alcohol dependence [1-34]
  • Treats opioid addiction [35-46]
  • Reduces insulin resistance [47-52]
  • Boosts growth hormone levels [51] [53]
  • Promotes weight loss [54-57]
  • Fights inflammation [58-72]
  • Improves sleep and sleeping pattern [73-76]
  • Improves thyroid function [77-78]

Proven Health Benefits of Naltrexone

Treats Alcohol Dependence

Treating alcohol dependence is one the main benefits of naltrexone. An overwhelming body of clinical evidence clearly supports its effects on alcohol cravings:

  1. In women with alcohol use disorders, naltrexone treatment reduced drinking quantity and time to relapse. [1]
  2. In patients with alcohol dependence and at least 4 days of abstinence, naltrexone administration at a dose of 100 mg daily for 16 weeks significantly increased days of abstinence and reduced the risk of heavy-drinking days. [2]
  3. In male alcohol-dependent patients, naltrexone treatment for 12 weeks prevented alcohol relapse without any adverse side effects. [3]
  4. An analysis of several studies found that 19 (70%) of 27 clinical trials assessing the effect of naltrexone on alcohol addiction showed significant reductions in “heavy or excessive drinking”. [4]
  5. An analysis of several studies also found that naltrexone treatment was associated with reductions in event-level craving and consumption. [5]
  6. In alcohol-dependent men, naltrexone promoted abstinence and decreased the incidence of relapse. [6]
  7. In patients with alcohol dependence, naltrexone treatment resulted in a significant reduction in heavy drinking. [7]
  8. In alcohol-dependent participants who were highly compliant with taking naltrexone, the treatment significantly improved outcome measures. [8]
  9. An analysis of multiple studies also found that naltrexone reduced relapse rates after abstinence. [9]
  10. In alcohol-dependent men, naltrexone reduced the consumption of alcohol and was well-tolerated. [10]
  11. An analysis of several studies assessing the effects of naltrexone on alcohol dependence found that short-term administration of the drug reduced the relapse rate significantly. [11]
  12. When administered to patients who were still currently drinking, naltrexone safely and effectively reduced cravings. [12-13]
  13. In alcoholic men, naltrexone treatment significantly reduced alcohol craving and drinking, and was associated with lesser euphoria related to alcohol consumption. [14]
  14. In alcoholic patients, naltrexone significantly improved treatment compliance and reduced cravings. [15]
  15. When combined with gabapentin, a drug for nerve pain, naltrexone improved drinking outcomes. [16]
  16. Naltrexone has also been found to be effective when administered without a period of abstinence or detoxification in alcoholics. [17]
  17. Recent studies found that naltrexone treatment was beneficial in alcoholic patients when given during a period of abstinence. [18-19]
  18. Oral naltrexone has a moderate to good clinical efficacy in treating patients with alcohol dependence. [20]
  19. Studies also found that naltrexone is most effective for achieving controlled drinking. [21-22]
  20. A study found that the effectiveness of naltrexone treatment is greater during active alcohol consumption [23].
  21. Naltrexone is also associated with significant improvements in several clinical measures such as time to alcohol relapse, daily alcohol intake, liver function indicators, and reduction in alcohol craving. [24]
  22. Studies found that administration of depot sustained release formulations of naltrexone for 4 weeks is highly associated with improved treatment outcomes. [25-28]
  23. Studies also found that naltrexone injection at a dose of 380 mg reduced the number of heavy drinking days per month by 10 times. [29-30]
  24. Several studies also reported that treatment with a longer acting naltrexone preparation can significantly reduce the frequency of re-treatments and relapse and can produce stable patient outcomes over time. [31-34]

Treats Opioid Addiction

Illegal use of opioids such as heroin, fentanyl, and morphine can lead to addiction and impaired quality of life. Several lines of evidence suggest that naltrexone can treat addiction to opioids by blocking certain signals in the brain:

  1. In opioid-addicted patients recently undergoing detoxification, naltrexone implant is more effective than oral naltrexone treatment at preventing relapse. [35-36]
  2. Studies found that one 50-mg tablet blocks μ-opioid receptors for 24 to 36 hours, preventing relapse and symptoms of withdrawal. [37-38]
  3. A study found that sustained-release injected naltrexone in patients with opioid dependence is associated with significantly better outcomes. [39]
  4. When combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies, naltrexone appears to produce significant clinical improvements in patients with opioid use disorder. [40-43]
  5. A study found that long-acting, sustained-release naltrexone formulations (both injectable and implantable) appears to be more effective than oral formulations. [44]
  6. In women with opioid addiction, the combination of naltrexone and fluoxetine appears to be more effective compared with monotherapy. [45]
  7. In patients undergoing opioid detoxification, low-dose naltrexone therapy improved subjective opioid withdrawal scores (SOWS). [46]

Reduces Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells of the body do not respond properly to the effects of the hormone insulin. As a result, blood sugar levels become elevated. Chronic elevation in blood sugar can be life-threatening as it can lead to nerve damage, vision problems, and impaired kidney function. Interestingly, studies have shown that naltrexone can help improve insulin resistance and normalize blood sugar levels:

  1. In obese individuals, naltrexone therapy reduced hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a measure of blood sugar level. [47]
  2. In obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), naltrexone improved insulin resistance after 3 and 6 months of treatment. [48]
  3. Naltrexone also improved fasting serum insulin in women with PCOS, suggesting that the hormone is effectively utilized by their bodies. [49]
  4. In diabetic women with severe and chronic eating disorders, naltrexone improved blood sugar control. [50]
  5. In normal obese patients, long-term naltrexone treatment reduced fasting insulin levels. [51]
  6. In women with insulin resistance related to elevated male sex hormones, long-term treatment with naltrexone dramatically reduced blood sugar levels. [52]

Boosts Growth Hormone Levels

Research has shown that naltrexone has the ability to boost growth hormone (GH) levels. This is a significant finding since GH plays an integral role in building and maintaining lean muscle mass, reducing body fat, speeding up metabolism, and other important functions.

  1. In obese patients, 4 weeks of treatment with naltrexone at 50 mg/day increased blood concentrations of GH. [51]
  2. In obese women, naltrexone augmented the production of GH. [53]

Promotes Weight Loss

Naltrexone can also help achieve healthier weight, thus, reducing one’s risk for obesity-related diseases. Studies show that this drug works by reducing food intake:

  1. In obese men, increasing doses of naltrexone (25 to 200 mg) given over 4 consecutive days reduced food intake by 30%. [54]
  2. Long-term therapy with naltrexone (8 weeks) reduced body weight of obese women by an average of 1.7 kg. [55]
  3. Administration of naltrexone alone in obese patients significantly reduced body weight. [56]
  4. In patients with damaged metabolism, naltrexone treatment resulted in restoration of energy expenditure. [57]

Fights Inflammation

Studies show that naltrexone can help ward off various inflammatory conditions because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties:

  1. Studies have shown that naltrexone may help reduce inflammation by lowering the levels of inflammatory cytokines. [58-60]
  2. Studies found that low-dose naltrexone is safe and effective in the treatment of chronic inflammatory skin conditions. [61-63]
  3. In patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease, naltrexone induced clinical improvement and prevented remission. [64-66]
  4. In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, naltrexone treatment significantly improved symptoms and reduced the use of pain relievers. [67]
  5. Studies also show that naltrexone may help improve symptoms in autoimmune inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia. [68-72]

Improves Sleep and Sleeping Pattern

There’s also a great deal of evidence supporting the benefits of naltrexone on sleep quantity and quality:

  1. In patients with sleep apnea, naltrexone has been shown to improve symptoms and sleeping patterns. [73-74]
  2. In patients with complex regional pain syndrome and other chronic pain syndromes, naltrexone treatment improved sleep quality. [75]
  3. In healthy male volunteers, naltrexone improved various sleep parameters. [76]

Improves Thyroid Function

Taking naltrexone also has benefits on thyroid health. Studies show that this drug can help improve thyroid function:

  1. In patients with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, naltrexone improved T4 to T3 conversion and reduced inflammation. [77]
  2. In patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), naltrexone normalized the levels of thyroid hormones. [78]

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