The University of Arizona

Treatment Modalities and Treatment Settings for Illicit Drug Abuse
Pharmacological Treatments :
Opioid Antagonists

Narcotic antagonists include naloxone and naltrexone which block the subjective and physiological effects of subsequently administered opioid drugs (e.g., heroin) without tolerance developing to its antagonist effect. Compared with naloxone, naltrexone has good oral bioavailability and a relatively long half-life; it is also available in a long-acting injectable preparation that may improve treatment adherence. Maintenance treatment with naltrexone is an alternate strategy, although the utility of this strategy is often limited by lack of patient adherence and low treatment retention.[1-4]  



  • (1) American Psychiatric Association. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Substance Use Disorders. Arlington, VA: APA; 2007 Apr. Report No.: 164.
  • (2) Gutstein HB, Akil H. Opioid analgesics. In: Hardman JG, Limbird LE, Gilman AG, editors. The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics. 10th ed. New York: Mcgraw-Hill; 2001. p. 569-620.
  • (3) Meyer RE, Mirin SM, Zackon F. Community outcome on narcotic antagonist. In: Meyer RE, Mirin SM, editors. The Heroin Stimulus: Implication for a Theory of Addiction.New York: Plenum; 1979. p. 215-30.
  • (4) Meyer RE, Mirin SM. A psychology of craving: implications of behavioral research. In: Lowinson JH, Ruiz P, editors. Substance Abuse: Clinical Problems and Perspectives.Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins; 1991. p. 57-62.