Naltrexone – Weird or What?

So what’s it like, taking naltrexone?

If you have a family member or friend who’s starting out on The Sinclair Method (TSM), you might be wondering what to expect, what you’ll see in them and what they’ll be feeling.

You may have read, in a pair of articles posted recently under ”Joanna’s TSM Journey” elsewhere on this site about Jo’s experience of taking Selincro and why she decided to do it when Naltrexone was already working so well for her.  The most important reason was, of course, how could she know what people taking Selincro were going through as they started their TSM journey if she hadn’t experienced it for herself?  Because we all know that reading about it (even extensively) and talking to other people who’ve experienced it is not the same as going through it yourself.  “You don’t know, man… you weren’t there!”

So it occurred to me, as someone who doesn’t suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), that it would be good to gain a greater understanding of what it feels like, both so that I know what people are on about when I’m talking with them, and so that they can feel reassured that I do actually know and that I’m not just speaking on the basis of theoretical knowledge.  I’ve been there, done that.  OK, I still won’t have AUD, but at least I’ll have first-hand knowledge of what it feels like when you take Naltrexone.

A few months ago, in the company, for safety’s sake, of Jo and another TSM veteran (it’s a good idea to have someone else you trust around and be in a safe environment when you take it for the first time), I ate a plate of sandwiches, drank a couple of bottles of water, took a deep breath, and swallowed half a 50 mg tablet of Naltrexone.  And then I waited…..

To be on the safe side, I waited an hour and a half, rather than the minimum of 1 hour that you must wait before drinking after taking the tablet.

And I made a mental note of what I was feeling.  To be honest, it was difficult to know whether I was, perhaps, being hypersensitive to any feelings – were they actual side-effects or was it just that I was overly alert to any possibilities in that area?  I don’t really know, but what I can say is that, for me, there was no nausea, no headache, and only a very slight (and I mean very slight) feeling of being “distanced” from things, of being slightly spaced out.  Certainly the people I was with (who know me well enough to judge) said I looked and sounded perfectly normal.

And then I ordered a drink at the bar – a double Tanqueray and tonic with loads of ice and a wedge of lime.  Now this is one of my favourite drinks.  It’s one I often have when winding down at the end of a long or stressful week, and despite not having AUD, I wouldn’t deny that the first taste of it normally gives me an all over feeling of, “Aaaah!  That’s good!”

So I took a sip and …. nothing.   Nothing at all.   Nothing except a slightly confused part of my brain asking why I was drinking a soft drink that tasted of G&T.  And it did – it tasted exactly the same as normal, but there was no buzz, no feeling of relaxation, no nothing…  It was seriously weird!  Not unpleasant, just… weird!

And there we sat, chatting as friends do, while I tried to drink my G&T.  Tried, and failed.  Normally, I’d down that drink in 10-15 minutes and probably order another.  45 minutes later, that first drink was still sitting there, with the ice melted and the glass still over half full.  I simply didn’t want it.  I was basically having to force myself to sip it and in the end, I gave up and passed the glass over to one of my friends – another non-alcoholic.  I had absolutely zero interest in continuing to drink it.

Later that evening, we went to a restaurant and I ordered mineral water to go with my meal instead of the beer or wine I would normally have had.  I didn’t want any alcohol.  I just didn’t.  And I can honestly say that I enjoyed that sparkling water far, far more than the half a G&T I’d forced down.  I did, incidentally, notice that I wasn’t as hungry as I’d thought I was and I left about a third of my meal untouched, but apparently, a slight loss of appetite is common when taking Naltrexone.

I should also say that I didn’t sleep very well that night – very restless and waking up regularly after I did manage to drop off, and some slightly odd dreams, but I did also have a lot of other things on my mind at the time, so that may have played a part.  And I think I must still have had some of the blocking effect in my brain the next afternoon, too, because I couldn’t really summon up the interest to finish a pint of beer I’d ordered then either.

So there you have it – my experience of taking Naltrexone.  OK, I only tried it once and I only took half a tablet, but then it’s a good idea to take half the recommended dose the first few times you take it – sort of allow your body to ease into it and minimise any side effects.

It’s likely, according to one of my TSM friends who was there at the time, that my powerful response suggests I would be a quick responder to TSM, and that might not be the case for everyone, of course.  And some people are going to have more in the way of side effects than I did.  But in terms of blocking your desire to drink, I can unequivocally say that it works.  I have honestly never felt anything like it!  I simply did not want that drink.

In the C Three Foundation’s documentary film, One Little Pill, one of the people trying TSM for the first time, Steve, takes a tablet, has a drink and asks why non-alcoholics would ever bother to drink it that’s what they felt like when they do.  And he’s quite right – if that’s what it normally felt like, I probably wouldn’t bother.  But it’s not.  What I felt when I drank after taking the Naltrexone is most emphatically not what I normally feel when I have a drink.  But if what I wanted was to stop feeling that sense of “Aaaah!”, and particularly if that feeling normally resulted in a compulsion to drink more and more, if I wanted not to keep drinking, then TSM is definitely the way I, personally, would go.

I am not, as I’ve noted elsewhere, medically trained or qualified, and what I felt and what happened for me may not be the same as for you or your loved one.  I do take other prescription medications on a daily basis and I checked carefully, before taking the Naltrexone, to make sure that there were no nasty interactions or contraindications, and you should absolutely do the same – consult with your doctor – whether you take prescription medications or not.  But if your doctor or other licensed medical practitioner says you’re good to go, then why not give it a try?

Yes, it felt weird, but it did exactly what it says on the tin … it stopped me wanting to drink more.

I know, man … I was there.

— Moyra