Opiod Antagonists, Naloxone and Naltrexone - Aids for Pain Management
Achieving effective, durable, and safe pain relief, especially in patients with chronic and/or severe pain conditions, can be a clinical challenge. For many types of pain, pre- scription opioids are among the most effective analgesics [Fine and Portenoy 2004]. Opioid antagonists — in particular, naloxone and naltrexone — have been available and studied for decades as agents that dis- place opioid molecules from their neuroreceptors, and block opioids from attaching to and activating those receptors. Such qualities can be of important benefit, as short-acting antagonists like naloxone are used effectively to quickly reverse toxic effects of opioid overmedication or overdose.
In sum, the opioid antagonists naloxone and naltrexone appear to offer promise for helping to achieve more effective pain management in some of the most difficult and challenging situa- tions facing healthcare providers and their adult patients. These agents are available today and, although they are approved for other applications, it is important that practitioners become aware of the therapeutic options that these agents may provide for patient care. - Stewart B. Leavitt, MA, PhD