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(Updated in 2011 from an article in BP issue 2)

There has been quite a lot of developments in the uses for naltrexone, not just in the UK but around the world -and it is clearly not just a single treatment option. There are various ways of using naltrexone – and this update, taken from issue 2 and added too, looks at Naltrexone’s origins, its uses and its future.

What is Naltrexone and How Does it Work?

For heroin, (and other opiates such as methadone, morphine, palfium, codeine etc), to produce their effects – and get you stoned – they need to be able to attach themselves to small areas in the brain and nervous system called receptor sites. Naltrexone not only blocks these receptor sites, which prevents any opiates from working, but also displaces or removes any existing opiates that currently occupy those sites. Such drugs are called ‘opiate antagonists’ – they antagonise (to put it mildly!) any opiate. This means that if you take naltrexone when you have an opiate ‘habit’, you will find yourself withdrawing quickly and intensely as the opiates are rapidly (rather than slowly) removed from your receptor sites, and your body reacts to their absence. However, if you’ve already detoxed, taking naltrexone may help keep you abstinent as using heroin simply will not work. Naltrexone is sometimes referred to as a ‘non-drug’ because it doesn’t really have any effect other than blocking the effects of opiates. Naltrexone is long lasting – from 24 to 72 hours depending on the dose, and it comes as a tablet, or as an implant. It is closely related- but not the same – as Naloxone (or Narcan), the ‘pure’ opiate antagonist which doctors use for opiate overdoses; but naloxone only works when injected and lasts for only a short time – less than an hour, which is why people need to be monitored and can ‘fall back’ into overdose.

To read the rest of what is an interesting insight into Naltrexone, click here.

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