November 1992

Naltrexone in the Treatment of Alcohol Dependence

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1992;49(11):876-880. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1992.01820110040006

• Seventy male alcohol-dependent patients participated in a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of naltrexone hydrochloride (50 mg/d) as an adjunct to treatment following alcohol detoxification. Subjects taking naltrexone reported significantly less alcohol craving and days in which any alcohol was consumed. During the 12-week study, only 23% of the naltrexone-treated subjects met the criteria for a relapse, whereas 54.3% of the placebo-treated subjects relapsed. The primary effect of naltrexone was seen in patients who drank any alcohol while attending outpatient treatment. Nineteen (95%) of the 20 placebo-treated patients relapsed after they sampled alcohol, while only eight (50%) of 16 naltrexone-treated patients exposed to alcohol met relapse criteria. Naltrexone was not associated with mood changes or other psychiatric symptoms. Significant side effects (nausea) occurred in two nalterxonetreated subjects, and one naltrexone-treated subject complained of increased pain from arthritis. These results suggest that naltrexone may be a safe and effective adjunct to treatment in alcohol-dependent subjects, particularly in preventing alcohol relapse.