Drug Use

Naloxone vs. Naltrexone

Naloxone and Naltrexone are two medications used to treat opioid dependency, also known as opioid use disorder, but they work in different ways.

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that interact with opioid receptors in the brain to produce powerful effects such as pain relief and euphoria. Commonly used opioid drugs include heroin, fentanyl, morphine, methadone, prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, and other opiate formulations.

Effects of an Opioid Overdose

  • Slowed breathing and heart rate

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Pinpointed pupils

  • Respiratory depression

  • Diminished consciousness

  • Overdose deaths

Withdrawal Symptoms

The most common symptoms of opioid withdrawal include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, chills, and anxiety.

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone (Narcan) is an emergency medication that rapidly reverses the effects of opioids in someone who has overdosed. It is only FDA-approved to treat opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder and can be administered either by injection or as a nasal spray.

Pharmacology of Naloxone

Naloxone is a synthetic opioid antagonist, meaning it binds to opioid receptors and blocks the effects of opioids. The drug has a relatively short duration of action so it needs to be administered multiple times if someone continues to overdose. It works by displacing the opioid from receptors in the brain and reversing its effects.

Side Effects

  • Flushing

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Constipation

What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone (Vivitrol), on the other hand, is a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) drug that reduces cravings for opioids and blocks their effects when taken as prescribed. It is used to treat opioid addiction and can be taken orally or in an injectable form.

Pharmacology of Naltrexone

Naltrexone is a pure opioid antagonist that binds to opioid receptors but does not activate them, blocking the effects of opioids. Compared to Naloxone, its duration of action is much longer, so it can be taken as a once-daily medication.

Side Effects

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Vomiting

  • Nausea

  • Headache

What is the Difference Between Naloxone and Naltrexone?

The main difference between Naloxone and Naltrexone is that Naloxone is used to rapidly reverse the effects of opioids in the event of an overdose, while Naltrexone is a MAT prescription drug that helps reduce opioid cravings and block their effects.

Recovery from Opioid Dependency Today with Caron Treatment Centers

Are you or a loved one struggling with opioid dependency (also called opioid use disorder) or substance use disorder? At Caron Treatment Centers, we understand the complexities of opioid use disorder and provide a comprehensive approach to recovery. Our evidence-based treatment programs integrate medications such as Naloxone and Naltrexone with traditional therapies and support groups to promote long-term wellness and recovery. Contact us today for more information about our recovery and treatment services.

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