Naloxone and Naltrexone–What’s the Difference?

February 18, 2023

Naloxone (Narcan) and naltrexone (Vivitrol) both interact with the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, preventing opioids from coming in contact with these receptors. The difference between the two medications is their speed of action.

What is naloxone (Narcan)?

Naloxone is used in emergency situations when patients are found suffering from drug overdose. These patients are often unconscious, not breathing or barely breathing, have pinpoint pupils, and their lips or nose may be blue. After naloxone is given, patients are taken to the hospital for stabilization. The effect tends to last less than an hour.

What is naltrexone (Vivitrol)?

Naltrexone is longer-acting and is given to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). Patients taking naltrexone lose their craving for opioids and are able to stop their opioid use. When opioids are taken while on naltrexone, the person does not experience any “high” or euphoria as the opioid receptors are blocked. Naltrexone is also used to treat alcohol addiction. Alcohol can cause euphoria by activating an opioid response. By blocking opioid receptors, naltrexone treats alcohol addiction in the same way it treats opioid addiction.

Where can I get naltrexone?

Naltrexone can be prescribed by QuickMD during a telemedicine appointment by either video or phone. The prescription will be sent electronically to your pharmacy of choice.

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