Naltrexone: report of lack of hepatotoxicity in acute viral hepatitis, with a review of the literature

Addiction Biology
C Brewer, Voi Shim Wong


Many clinicians appear to be concerned about the potential hepatotoxicity of the opiate antagonist naltrexone (NTX) and this may be one reason why it is not used more widely in treating both heroin and alcohol abusers. Some much-quoted early studies noted abnormalities in liver function tests (LFTs) in very obese patients taking high doses, although there was no evidence of clinically significant liver dysfunction. These concerns may be reinforced by advice in the UK product information sheet to perform LFTs before and during treatment, by high infection rates with hepatitis C virus (HCV) among injecting heroin addicts and by the frequency of abnormal LFTs in alcohol abusers. We describe a heroin abuser in whom clinical and laboratory manifestations of acute hepatitis B and C appeared a few days after the insertion of a subcutaneous naltrexone implant. A decision was made not to remove the implant but the hepatitis resolved completely and uneventfully well within the normal time-scale. A review of the literature indicates that even when given at much higher doses than are needed for treating heroin or alcohol abusers, there is no evidence that NTX causes clinically significant liver disease or exacerbates, even at high doses, s...Continue Reading


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