Opioid addiction has become a common problem throughout the country. While opioid laws vary by state, many states have noticed an increase in addiction issues related to opioid use and have increased restrictions on prescribing opioids for chronic pain. Most states limit the use of opioids for acute pain to seven days, although states such as Florida, Kentucky, and Minnesota limit it even further, to just three days.
Doctors in some states must do more work to prescribe opioids to patients, such as taking special classes to understand the severity of opioid addiction. The new and more restrictive laws are beneficial because states like Massachusetts are seeing a decrease in death rates related to opioid use.
The problem with limiting opioid use is that there needs to be other treatments for those who suffer from chronic pain. While opioid use is still available for post-surgical patients who only need pain medicine for a short period, many people suffer from pain caused by cancer, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases on a daily basis.
Researchers are working hard to find alternative treatments to opioids that are less addictive but equally effective in preventing all types of pain. Because pain signals come from the brain, the treatment must block these pain signals without developing a sense of euphoria or pleasure that makes it addictive.
Naltrexone, once used in high doses, helps block the activity of opioids in the brain. High-dose naltrexone was used to treat opioid addiction. Low-dose naltrexone is now used off-label in a similar way. It can block the activity of opioids for shorter periods, and as a response, the body produces endorphins. Put simply, naltrexone works to stimulate the body’s natural opioids so that patients don’t need synthetics opioids for pain.
Low-dose naltrexone is a great alternative to opioids for sufferers of chronic pain. Those who have multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, cancer, nerve inflammation, inflammatory bowel disease, and autism can all benefit from taking this drug. Low-dose naltrexone can also treat patients addicted to opioids, cocaine, alcohol, and cigarettes.
The Food and Drug Administration has licensed and approved low-dose naltrexone; however, it is not approved for the reasons listed above, which is why doctors prescribe it off-label in these instances. Prescribing a drug off-label is both legal and acceptable. The only drugs low-dose naltrexone shouldn’t be used with are opioid painkillers because this drug will reduce the effectiveness of opioids.