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8 Common Naltrexone Side Effects

Author: Kevin Olsen

Last Updated: 10/05/2022

Naltrexone is a medication that helps people with alcohol or opioid addictions. Alcohol rehabilitation centers use naltrexone in the early stages of the treatment process. When someone drinks alcohol it releases euphoric feelings and alcohol enters your bloodstream quickly so those feelings are also released quickly too. This medication blocks those euphoric feelings from being released, which reduces alcohol cravings. Unfortunately, naltrexone may come with side effects.

Typically, there are up to eight common side effects of naltrexone. Some side effects include anxiety, headaches, and restlessness. Read on to learn more about naltrexone’s possible side effects below.

1. Anxiety

Anxiety is an emotion caused by various things such as stress, emotional trauma, financial concerns, medical conditions, major life events, and many other things. Also, anxiety doesn’t need to be associated with any specific event. Some people suffer from anxiety disorders and will experience anxiety at any point. 

There are many ways to help with anxiety. One way is medication, although if you are taking naltrexone you will need to contact your healthcare provider to see if you can take medication for the anxiety as well. If you can’t, you can do other things such as yoga or meditation. Deep breathing is another thing that can help with anxiety because sometimes if you have an anxiety attack your breathing can become short and taking the time to stop and try deep breathing can sometimes help. 

2. Headache

Headaches can be described as pain or discomfort in the head or neck area. It can be commonly mistaken for a migraine which has the pain focused on the eye and eyebrow area. If you are experiencing headaches as a side effect of taking Naltrexone, some things can negatively enhance the headaches. 

Some things that can make them worse are stress, emotional distress, and even infections. To help with the headaches you can take ibuprofen or aspirin if a doctor approves. Other than that you can rest and relax in a quiet and dark room, can put a warm and wet towel on your head, or even do acupuncture.

3. Restlessness

Restlessness is when you cannot rest or relax and is often associated with both anxiety and boredom. A few things you can do to help with restlessness is to make sure you do things that you enjoy and not just do things you feel you have to do. You can also try to find hobbies that you enjoy to fill the time. 

Another thing you can do is talk with friends and family, they will have things to help as well as give you things to do while you relax such as new TV Shows or movies you can try.

4. Nervousness

Nervousness is to be in a constant state of being nervous. To be nervous means to be agitated, alarmed, or high-strung. Ways to help with nervousness as a side effect are things like yoga and meditation. You can also figure out what is making you nervous, even though it’s a side effect of the medication there can still be an event causing you to be nervous, and prepare for that event so that you feel more confident when the time comes.

If there is nothing specific making you nervous and it’s just from the medication you can spend time with friends and family as a distraction.

5. Nausea or Vomiting

The feeling of nausea can sometimes be even worse than vomiting. Feeling nauseous is something you feel in your stomach when you feel like you need to vomit but you don’t always actually vomit. It can be a debilitating feeling and can lead to other things such as headaches and even depression and anxiety. 

Ways to help with nausea and vomiting are to eat bland foods such as bread and pretzels. Avoiding strong smells or odors will also help as they can sometimes heavily react to your nausea and strengthen the feeling as well. One other way is to get fresh air. If you’re inside you should go outside and take a short walk to try to help with the symptoms.

6. Unusual Tiredness

Unusual tiredness is another symptom and “unusual” mostly means that you feel tired in situations and at times you normally wouldn’t. It can also mean feeling like you’re tired all day and every day. Some ways to help with this feeling are to eat a balanced diet that helps with being tired. 

You can start your day with a cup of coffee or a cup of tea to help if you wake up feeling tired. Another thing to do is to fill your schedule with things to do. If you find yourself just sitting around you will likely feel even more tired. So finding some hobbies or things to do to fill those empty gaps in the tour schedule can help as well.

7. Muscle or Joint pain

Another symptom is muscle and joint pains. This pain can be sharp and very painful or it can be dull and last hours. Either way, it is not something you would want to feel especially just as a side effect of a medication you are hoping helps you. Ways to help with the pain are medicine like aspirin or ibuprofen. You can also try stretching multiple times a day and see if that helps. One other way is you can try creams such as CBD cream for the pain.

8. Abdominal or Stomach pain

Abdominal and stomach pain is often described as being sharp and it can completely detach you from what you were previously doing. Some people associate stomach pains with needing to use the bathroom but this would not be from that, so it can lead to unnecessary trips to the bathroom. 

Some ways to help with stomach pain are again to try ibuprofen or aspirin. You can also try eating mild foods that won’t make it worse. Another thing to try is heating packs on your stomach or abdomen.

What Causes the Side Effects of Naltrexone?

The main cause for why naltrexone has these side effects is how the medication is reacting to your body. It takes time for your body to adjust to the medication and some people’s bodies take longer than others. For some people, the side effects could also be much worse than others. 

It is also important to not drink alcohol while taking this medication as some studies have shown that drinking alcohol while on this medication can greatly increase the symptoms and can also add other symptoms that are much worse.

What are the Severe Side Effects of Naltrexone?

While most of the side effects caused by taking naltrexone are not too severe, many can be very dangerous, or some that can last long term. Some of the most serious side effects are bleeding or bloody stools, blurred vision, confusion, and rapid changes in breathing rates and heart rate. These are only some of the side effects of naltrexone. Always consult with your doctor if you experience serious side effects.

What are the Long-Term Side Effects of Naltrexone?

Some of the side effects that can last long-term are arthritis, liver damage, and respiratory infections. Not only are these long-term, but they can also be highly dangerous. Liver damage is deadly, as can respiratory infections if not treated quickly and correctly. While arthritis is not deadly, it makes everyday tasks painful and troublesome.

What You Should Know Before Taking Naltrexone?

With taking any new medication there are certain things you will want to know before taking naltrexone. Some of those things are how the medication works, the upsides and side effects of the medication, as well as worst-case scenarios. 

It’s important to know these things because you want to know how to spot if there are any issues while taking the medication, and you want to know how to spot that the medication is working correctly. 

What’s Inside of a Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is in a class of drugs known as opioid and alcohol antagonists. It comes in a pill form or as an injectable medication. The name brands for Naltrexone are ReVia and Depade. The injectable version is called Vivitrol.

We list the contents found inside naltrexone below.

  • Colloidal Anhydrous Silica
  • Crospovidone
  • Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose Lactose Monohydrate
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Microcrystalline Cellulose Polyethylene Glycol 400 Polysorbate 80
  • Iron Oxide Red
  • Iron Oxide Yellow
  • Titanium Dioxide

Depending on the type of naltrexone there may be more contents or ingredients.

What’s the Dosage Recommended for You?

The recommended dosage of the pill form of naltrexone is 50 mg once daily. The injectable extended-release form of the medication is administered at 380 mg intramuscular once per month. If your doctor deems it necessary they can order a higher dose as well. Most of the time dosages won’t exceed 100 or 150 mg.

Who Can Use Naltrexone?

Anyone can use Naltrexone if prescribed by a doctor. It is meant for those who are addicted to either alcohol or opiates, but for the common person, there are little to no risks if taken. The people who should avoid taking Naltrexone are those who drink alcohol or take opioids, anyone with Kidney Disease, or anyone with Liver Disease.

Why use Naltrexone?

The main reason to take Naltrexone is to help in quitting drinking alcohol or taking opioids. It is prescribed by a doctor and used as a part of a complete process of treatment. Many alcoholism treatment centers around the country will use naltrexone in their treatment regimen as well as it is a very effective tool in aiding in quitting both alcohol and opioids.

Do Naltrexone Side Effects Go Away?

Yes, the side effects from Naltrexone do go away. Most of the side effects from the medication will go away on their own as your body adjusts to the medication. Some of the more severe side effects may not go away on their own. If this is the case your doctor will provide you with ways to either help reduce them or to make them go away.