An opiate blocker or opiate/opioid antagonist is a medication that reduces some of the effects of opiates or opioids, which are often prescribed for pain relief. Uses of this blocker are varied and sometimes they’re administered for detoxification for people who are addicted to opioids or to related substances like alcohol. They also play an important role in treating overdose by opioid.
Opiate addiction is challenging and one method for ending addiction is to use an opiate blocker. This may diminish any psychological benefits or “high” associated with taking additional opiates, and for many people, a short course of opioid antagonists helps to overcome addiction to the powerful opioids. There are several drugs that might work in this respect and even ones that will induce illness if things like alcohol are used. These may work as a deterrent for those recovering from drug abuse.
The longstanding belief has been that the principal benefit of the blocker in treating addiction is that when it is administered with an opioid, pain isn’t alleviated by the opioid anymore, but this understanding is too simplified. Rather, an antagonist may diminish side effects like opiate “high,” but it might actually be useful in treating pain, either when prescribed with an opiate or when used alone. An increasing number of studies show that some people manage pain effectively by taking an opiate blocker, either after having once used opioids or if they have never used them. In low doses, these blockers might either work with a co-administered opioid or alone to increase analgesic or pain-relieving effects. This matter requires additional study and uses of opioid antagonists to control pain are still considered off-label.
One use of the blocker that is definitely approved is to treat overdose. People who have overdosed on any opioid are at extremely grave risk for mortality because opioids can suppress breathing to an extraordinary degree. Intravenous administration of some opioid blockers, particularly naloxone, is a first step in treatment, since the effects of the opioid taken will then be significantly reduced. Some opioid antagonists are also used during procedures like ultra-rapid detox, and they help reduce any effects opiates could continue to produce in the body, which may help end addiction.
There are a number of off-label uses for opiate blocker types, and these uses may have minimal or strong supporting research. There have been some studies linking improvement of autism symptoms to certain opioid antagonists. The aforementioned use as adjunct or sole therapy for pain relief is another example. Such uses are still generally considered experimental and prescribing drugs for off-label use is typically discouraged, though people seeking to remedy pain relief might look for doctors who are willing to support decisions to try opiate blocker therapies that aren’t yet proven.
Since there are many different opiate blockers, side effects vary by person and chemical compound. People would want to thoroughly discuss potential side effects with a prescribing physician. There is also variance in how these drugs may be taken. Some are available orally and others have to be administered intravenously because their oral bioavailability is poor.