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Subst Abus. 2015;36(1):21-33. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2014.904838. Epub 2015 Jan 22.

Extended-release naltrexone and harm reduction counseling for chronically homeless people with alcohol dependence.

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a Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington-Harborview Medical Center , Seattle , Washington , USA.



Abstinence-based alcohol interventions are minimally desirable to and effective for chronically homeless individuals with alcohol dependence who have multimorbidity and high publicly funded service utilization and associated costs. Lower-barrier, patient-centered combined pharmacobehavioral interventions may more effectively treat this population. Harm reduction counseling involves a nonjudgmental, empathic style and patient-driven goal setting that requires neither abstinence nor use reduction. Extended-release naltrexone (XR-NTX), a monthly injectable formulation of an opioid receptor antagonist, reduces craving, is safe and effective for active drinkers, and may thereby support harm reduction goal setting. The aims of this 12-week, single-arm pilot were to initially document some aspects of feasibility, acceptability, and alcohol outcomes following XR-NTX administration and harm reduction counseling for chronically homeless individuals with alcohol dependence.


Participants were currently/formerly chronically homeless, alcohol-dependent individuals (N = 31) from 2 community-based agencies in the US Pacific Northwest. Measures included self-reported alcohol craving, quantity/frequency, problems, and biomarkers (ethyl glucuronide [EtG], liver transaminases). XR-NTX and harm reduction counseling were administered monthly over the 3-month treatment course.


Of the 45 individuals approached, 43 were interested in participation. The first injection was received by 31 participants, and 24 complied with all study procedures. Participants reported the treatment was acceptable. Participants evinced decreases in alcohol craving (33%), typical (25%) and peak (34%) use, frequency (17%), problems (60%), and EtG from the baseline to the 12-week follow-up (Ps < .05).


XR-NTX and harm reduction counseling are promising means of supporting reductions in alcohol use and alcohol-related harm among chronically homeless, alcohol-dependent individuals.


Alcohol dependence; extended-release naltrexone; harm reduction; homelessness

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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