What is Naltrexone and does it work for alcoholism?
Alcoholism is becoming a more worrying trend, which is no part helped by the continuing economic uncertainty. People are becoming more stressed and further compounding this is the fact that alcohol is getting cheaper which means that a lot more can be consumed at a cheaper rate than previously possible. This in turn puts a massive strain on the health services (in the case of the UK, this is the NHS)due to this upturn in alcoholism.
To counteract this, a new drug has been released, which is known as Naltrexone. Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist i.e. it blocks the opioid receptors which prevents agonists binding to it and bringing about its effect. Normally opioid agonists such as morphine would bind to this receptor and act on the central nervous system to bring about effects such as pleasure, pain relief etc however in the case of Naltrexone use, this action is prevented.
This therefore makes it seem as though it would be the ideal candidate for those that suffer from alcoholism since it blocks the pleasurable affects you get when you have more than a few drinks. A recent, albeit rough and ready experiment by the UK magazine Men’s Health carried out a trial with three staff members, all of which reported that their alcohol consumption was reduced. However, the experts consulted for that article, as well as other industry experts are dubious about the claims of how well this drug works.
The reason for this is that those in the clinical trials for Naltrexone, those that were in the placebo group were also monitored to have a reduction in alcohol consumption during the trial phase. This is not an uncommon phenomenon in clinical trials but it seemed especially prevalent in this trial which leads to the speculation that it is a psychological aspect involved in this case when compared to say a beta blocker which in clinical trials resulted in a slight decrease in blood pressure in the placebo group.
Regardless, for those that are taking Naltrexone, they do feel as though they’re taking less alcohol, however the problem is here is for those that drink to an excessively high level, is it the case that the reduction in their alcohol consumption will be significant to the degree that it will have a positive impact on their health? The drug however has to be used in conjunction with proper counselling and shouldn’t be used on its own as a way to treat alcoholism. It’ll be interesting to see how the progress of this medication continues, and if other brands will bring out similar, more effective drugs.