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Can You Drink on Naltrexone?

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Did you know that there is a medication that can be used to treat alcohol addiction, enabling you to cut down, stop, or moderate drinking?

Naltrexone is a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006 as a treatment for alcohol use disorder (often called alcoholism). The main benefit of taking naltrexone is that it helps to treat alcohol addiction by reducing the amount and frequency of drinking.

This post explores the use of naltrexone, how it works, and whether or not you can drink while taking the medication.

What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is one of several medications used for the treatment of substance use disorders. Using medications in this way is more commonly referred to as medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Naltrexone is used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies to help individuals overcome addiction and sustain recovery.

More specifically, naltrexone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it can completely block the pleasurable effects of drugs like opioids and alcohol. Prescribed under the brand names Vivitrol (a monthly injection) and ReVia (an oral tablet), naltrexone has been found to reduce the number of drinks and frequency of drinking episodes.

Can You Drink on Naltrexone?

As we’ve mentioned, there are various ways you can use naltrexone depending on your recovery goal. For those who still wish to drink, naltrexone can be a useful tool. When used appropriately, naltrexone allows people to drink alcohol moderately if they wish to do so.

This medication affects the brain’s ability to feel pleasure from drinking, but it doesn’t counteract the effects of alcohol, like changes to behavior and the feeling of being intoxicated. So you’ll need to take the same precautions as anyone else drinking would, like avoiding driving.

Research shows that those using naltrexone experience a reduction in heavy drinking and cravings meaning they are able to better control urges to drink. They can also maintain a level of drinking that they are comfortable with—that could mean reducing their use, moderating or controlled drinking, or stopping altogether. Further studies have shown that this type of medication-assisted treatment is effective and has few safety concerns.

This way of using naltrexone is also referred to as The Sinclair Method.

What is the Sinclair Method?

The Sinclair Method is a scientific approach of targeted medication use. It involves taking naltrexone an hour before drinking and then drinking mindfully. This includes keeping a drinking log. This method has helped over 5,000 people since 2017 and has a 78 percent success rate.

For more information about the Sinclair Method, you might enjoy our recent webinar with Claudia Christian, an advocate of the Sinclair Method. You can learn more about how it works, Claudia’s experience of using naltrexone, and how it helped her in long-term recovery.

FAQs about naltrexone

Is naltrexone addictive?
No. It is an opioid antagonist, which means it blocks any euphoric effects from psychoactive drugs, like opioids and alcohol.This means you will not experience any type of high or buzz.

What is the difference between naltrexone and naloxone?
They sound a little bit alike and are both used in medication-assisted treatment, but they’re distinctly different drugs with different uses. Naloxone is used to reverse an opioid overdose. Naltrexone is used to block the euphoric effects of opioids to deter misuse and reduce cravings. You can read more about that difference in our blog, What is Naltrexone and How Can It Treat Both Alcohol and Opioid Addiction?

How long does naltrexone last in the body?
Naltrexone is effective after one hour, and typically leaves your body within 13 hours. However, there are other factors that impact how quickly the drug is eliminated from the body, such as age, metabolism, weight, height, health, and hydration.

How is naltrexone administered?
You can take naltrexone in pill form (ReVia) or by intramuscular injection (Vivitrol). The pill can be taken one hour before drinking, and the injection is administered once per month.

How effective is naltrexone for reducing drinking?
According to Dr. Sinclair, this method of drinking with naltrexone has a 78 percent rate of effectiveness. There are further studies that have found that using naltrexone allowed patients to reduce daily drinking to less problematic levels.

Can you still feel drunk while taking naltrexone?
Yes. Naltrexone does not block the effects of alcohol such as impairment to coordination, speech and motor control, or judgement. However, it does affect the feeling of euphoria you might experience when drinking alcohol.

This blog has been reviewed for medical accuracy by Paul Leonard, MD.

Olivia Pennelle (Liv) has a masters in clinical social work from Portland State University. She is a mental health therapist, writer, and human activist. Her writing has appeared in STAT News, Insider, Filter Magazine, Ravishly, The Temper, and Shondaland. She is the founder of Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, Life After 12-Step Recovery, and Tera Collaborations. She lives near Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Instagram @Livwritesrecovery and @teracollaborations

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.

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