The People's Perspective on Medicine

Naltrexone Cuts Urge to Drink

Q. I am a 62-year-old male emergency room nurse with a history of drinking 6 to 8 alcoholic drinks a day for the past 30 years or so. My drinking is confined to the hours between 5 and 10 PM. I drink because I like the buzz.
I honestly don’t believe my alcohol use is a coping mechanism, since my life is very satisfying both personally and professionally. I do have an addictive personality and used to smoke two or three packs a day. I stopped ‘cold turkey’ 20 years ago.
I have no desire to stop drinking, but I realize that if I continue at my present rate, I will eventually suffer health problems. I just want to reduce my consumption to a reasonable level.
I heard your radio show about naltrexone as a treatment and started taking it in January. I could be the poster child for this drug. In the three weeks that I have been taking it, I’m down to about two drinks a day, and have suffered absolutely no side effects. If this continues to be so helpful, I’d really like other people to know about naltrexone for problem drinking.

A. There is more information about naltrexone in “The Cure for Alcoholism; Drink Your Way Sober Without Willpower, Abstinence or Discomfort” by Roy Eskapa, PhD.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    AA doesn’t work for everyone ..Honestly sometimes it makes the cravings worse .. AA keeps you aware that you still are an addict and how insane you’re life was and how quickly it can return ..But it does not stop the urge to use.

    Thank you, that is VERY nice to know.

    I agree with you midgette
    They know they are an Alcoholic but to ashamed to admit it—so they look for some other magic cure which the minute they stop the pills they are right back out there booz’in again
    Vanity instead if brains

    Quoting Scripture only works for True Believers.
    The rest of us will depend on scientific progress with open minds, thank you.

    Just FYI, I had looked around for a doctor who was willing to prescribe Naltrexone. I finally got the prescription and it works. One thing I want to warn people about, is that I was laid off about 6 weeks ago. I am eligible for COBRA continuation for my health insurance on the prior’s employer’s group plan, but wanted to get my own coverage which costs less. I was denied coverage (determined to be ineligible for ANY of Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s individual policies) because I had been prescribed Naltrexone. Just thought you all might want to know that.

    I have been a heavy drinker for 35 years—just in the evenings, after work. I would drink 6-8 drinks nightly, usually waking with a hangover every morning. I spoke to my doctor last January (2010) about Naltrexone. Since starting Naltrexone, I have been able to manage my drinking and limit it to no more than 1-2 drinks daily.
    On some days, I have skipped alcohol completely. My prescription ran out a couple of months ago. At first I was able to limit my intake. However, it has increased to the point where I am returning to my previous consumption levels. I will be seeing my doctor in a few days and as much as I hate relying on a drug for help, I will be asking for a Naltrexone prescription.

    I was a late-stage chronic alcoholic up until age 47, when I was cured of alcoholism by The Sinclair Method. Before TSM, I was in inpatient 12-step treatment ten times, one of which was an involuntary commitment to a locked treatment facility after I was declared a danger to myself in a court of law because of the extreme nature of my drinking. I was in and out of detox and hospitals for many years. Nothing worked.
    I discovered the book “The Cure For Alcoholism” by Roy Eskapa on January 10th, 2010, and now, a little over a year later, I easily maintain complete sobriety. I can have a drink any time I want one, as long as I take naltrexone first, but since January 31st, 2011, I have not wanted one.
    I cannot say enough about this medical breakthrough. It saved my life at a time when my family already had a plan in place for what to do after I died of alcoholism.
    Seattle, WA

    Congrats, Ben.
    How has your journey been since you wrote that comment back in 2011?

    Please read my second post–I would never suggest “not seeing a physician” for any health issue–my wording surely could have been better, but I did explain myself later, and I will again in the following. Attaining and maintaining sobriety — in my experience — is best served by connecting to a support system, and AA is the gold standard. Consulting a physician for withdrawal symptoms is a good idea, of course–preferably one with EXPERIENCE in detoxification, or one willing to consult with an expert. The longer term sobriety portion of recovery is better served by peer support. And, again, I stress: on going treatment for HEALTH issues require the services of a physician.

    Don’t talk to a physician? Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. As was pointed out, if you just quit, it can be fatal. Not much a counselor can do for you there.

    Good for you, Paul 43! You are so right: for the alcoholic, “cutting back” is not a viable option. Anyone with “concern” about their drinking very, very likely has a problem, and would be wise to sit back and assess their situation. The world without alcohol is a VERY nice place, as you obviously have discovered!

    Don’t think anyone suggested the cold turkey approach–although it is OK for some. The preferable route for those who are physically addicted is under supervision of a physician experienced in treating alcoholics. Alcohol withdrawal CAN indeed be very uncomfortable, and for an unfortunate group, dangerous. This should not discourage folks who want to quit, however. Most do OK in the process, no matter the choice of method.
    AA is usually suggested because more people do better this way (at least in my experience) but that is not to say that other avenues won’t work. Some do OK with religious backing, other group treatment, and a rare person just quits without a support system. Motivation and determination are of utmost importance–without these, failure is usually assured.

    There is NO SUCH THING AS CUTTING DOWN ON YOUR DRINKING—it will work for awhile but you will soon be back to your normal amount and it will grow from there—
    I was a functioning drunk but the booze finally took me to a point where I couldn’t hold an afternoon job because I couldn’t make it through the day without a drink and I was and Aircraft Mechanic and booze is strictly taboo.
    I tried to stop drinking probably 50 times over the years and could never last more than a couple of weeks.
    I joined AA 9 years ago and I thank the Heavenly power that got me to join—it is without a doubt the BEST ORGANIZATION I HAVE EVER BEEN IN—no one in charge–$1 a meeting if you have it and if you don’t you don’t put anything in the basket—and the main thing is that AA is so unlike all the other organizations I was in (I owned my own business and belonged to a lot of organizations) they all wanted something from you—ALL AA WANTS FROM YOU IS TO HELP YOU STAY SOBER—THAT’S IT I SWEAR–
    I urge anyone who thinks they have a drinking problem to at least give yourself a shot at Serenity and try AA out.
    To find out where there is a meeting near you—and they are everywhere–just look in the Yellow/White pages of the phone book under ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS—you owe to yourself & your family–I am now more happy than I ever was in my entire life and I drank HEAVY from the time I was 16 to 55 when I finally quit—what a blessing.

    Nothing works for everyone, including AA. Some people are not comfortable with the spiritual aspect of AA, or the 12 steps. Also, some people want to limit their drinking, but not stop altogether. If people can find means other than AA to control their alcohol consumption, how is that a bad thing?

    CAH and others,
    By the way, stopping alcohol “cold turkey” is dangerous and could lead to DEATH. If you have an alcohol problem quit with the help of a doctor.

    Suggest if alcohol is concerning to you, your best bet of all is stopping. Tolerance to alcohol decreases with age and years of drinking, and you are correct in your concern for the possibility of health issues. When I worked–in the alcoholism treatment field–I often gave a “health talk” outlining from head to toe the possible ill effects of drinking. Talk it over with a professional (not a physician, unless they specialize in the area–most of them don’t know any more than you do about alcoholism).

    From Wikipedia:
    “Its use in alcohol (ethanol) dependence has been studied and has been shown to be effective[2]. Its mechanism of action in this indication is not fully understood, but as an opioid-receptor antagonist it’s likely to be due [citation needed] to the modulation of the dopaminergic mesolimbic pathway which ethanol is believed to activate.”

    I continue to be amazed by the lengths to which people will go in order to avoid AA.

    I continue to be amazed how fundamentalism of any variety closes minds to evidence.

    I would like to know how this works and if there are any side effects? My husband drinks a 30 pack of beer a week and he is 61. He keeps trying to cut back but always winds up back where he was or worse. He is averse to taking any medications (he also suffers from depression and anger issues which the alcohol exacerbates.) but if this is a natural remedy he might consider taking it. Thanks!

    Naltrexone is an opioid receptor blocker. Campral blocks NMDA receptors while stimulating GABA.
    Addiction is a physiological process, the body actually changes. The brain of an addict is different a non-addict. Like many diseases addiction is caused by genetic factors and environmental factors.
    There are many neurotransmitters involved in addiction / pleasure the opioid receptor probably plays a larger role than NMDA and GABA receptors which would also explain why naltrexone is more effective than Campral.

    Naltrexone would be my FIRST recommendation for alcoholism.
    I read on Micromedex (drug reference) that Naltrexone 50 mg Daily works better than Campral 333 mg Three times a day.
    Naltrexone is less expensive and only has to be taken Daily compared to Campral.

    Any idea HOW it works to reduce cravings for alcohol?

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^