Home > For Consumers > Naltrexone and nalmefene for alcohol...
  • We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information

PubMed Health. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet]. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2003-.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries.

Naltrexone and nalmefene for alcohol dependent patients

This version published: 2010; Review content assessed as up-to-date: October 08, 2010.

Plain language summary

Alcohol dependence is a chronic disease, which can develop when alcohol is heavily used over longer periods of time. Alcohol affects various brain regions, including the opioid receptor system, which mediates euphoric and pleasurable effects of alcohol. By blocking alcohol effects at these receptors, the opioid antagonists naltrexone and nalmefene can reduce alcohol "liking" and "craving" and thus support alcohol dependent patients in cutting down their drinking. 50 studies with 7793 participants were included in the review, in most studies treatment was provided over a period of three months. The review shows that more patients who took naltrexone were able to reduce the amount and frequency of drinking than those who took an identical appearing, but inert substance (placebo). On average, one out of nine patients was helped by naltrexone. Naltrexone does not have serious side effects, but gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, stomach pain and loss of appetite are common. Some patients also get tired from naltrexone. For injectable formulations of naltrexone, which can be advantageous for patients who have problems with taking their medication on schedule, and the second opioid antagonist nalmefene, the database is still too sparse to allow final conclusions. Nevertheless, the available studies indicate that these drugs might have comparable effects on drinking than oral naltrexone has. Naltrexone does not cause dependency and unlike disulfiram, another medicine that is sometimes used to treat alcohol dependence, it does not make patients feel sick if they drink alcohol while taking it.

Abstract

Background: Alcohol dependence belongs to the globally leading health risk factors. Therapeutic success of psychosocial programs for relapse prevention is moderate and could be increased by an adjuvant treatment with the opioid antagonists naltrexone and nalmefene.

Objectives: To determine the effectiveness and tolerability of opioid antagonists in the treatment of alcohol dependence.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group (CDAG) Specialized Register, PubMed, EMBASE and CINAHL in January 2010 and inquired manufacturers and researchers for unpublished trials.

Selection criteria: All double‐blind randomised controlled trials (RCTs) which compare the effects of naltrexone or nalmefene with placebo or active control on drinking‐related outcomes.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently extracted outcome data. Trial quality was assessed by one author and cross‐checked by a second author.

Main results: Based on a total of 50 RCTs with 7793 patients, naltrexone reduced the risk of heavy drinking to 83% of the risk in the placebo group RR 0.83 (95% CI 0.76 to 0.90) and decreased drinking days by about 4%, MD ‐3.89 (95% CI ‐5.75 to ‐2.04). Significant effects were also demonstrated for the secondary outcomes of the review including heavy drinking days, MD ‐ 3.25 (95% CI ‐5.51 to ‐0.99), consumed amount of alcohol, MD ‐ 10.83 (95% CI ‐19.69 to ‐1.97) and gamma‐glutamyltransferase, MD ‐ 10.37 (95% CI ‐18.99 to ‐1.75), while effects on return to any drinking, RR 0.96 (95 CI 0.92 to 1.00) missed statistical significance. Side effects of naltrexone were mainly gastrointestinal problems (e.g. nausea: RD 0.10; 95% CI 0.07 to 0.13) and sedative effects (e.g. daytime sleepiness: RD 0.09; 95% CI 0.05 to 0.14). Based on a limited study sample, effects of injectable naltrexone and nalmefene missed statistical significance. Effects of industry‐sponsored studies, RR 0.90 (95% CI 0.78 to 1.05) did not significantly differ from those of non‐profit funded trials, RR 0.84 (95% CI 0.77 to 0.91) and the linear regression test did not indicate publication bias (P = 0.765).

Authors' conclusions: Naltrexone appears to be an effective and safe strategy in alcoholism treatment. Even though the sizes of treatment effects might appear moderate in their magnitudes, these should be valued against the background of the relapsing nature of alcoholism and the limited therapeutic options currently available for its treatment.

Editorial Group: Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group.

Publication status: New search for studies and content updated (conclusions changed).

Citation: Rösner S, Hackl‐Herrwerth A, Leucht S, Vecchi S, Srisurapanont M, Soyka M. Opioid antagonists for alcohol dependence. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD001867. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001867.pub3. Link to Cochrane Library. [PubMed: 21154349]

Copyright © 2010 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PubMed Health Blog...

read all...

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...