Does Naltrexone Treatment Lead to Depression?... (Abstract)

Does Naltrexone Treatment Lead to Depression? Findings From a Randomized Controlled Trial in Subjects With Opioid Dependence (Abstract)

J Psychiatry Neurosci
January 2006

Objective: Dysphoria and depression have been cited as side effects of the opioid antagonist naltrexone. We aimed to assess whether depressive symptoms are a clinically relevant side effect in a population receiving naltrexone as a treatment for opioid dependence.

Methods: We carried out a randomized controlled, open-label trial comparing rapid opiate detoxification under anesthesia and naltrexone treatment with continued methadone maintenance at the Alcohol and Drug Service, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Australia. The study subjects were patients stabilized on methadone maintenance treatment for heroin dependence who wished to transfer to naltrexone treatment. The Beck Depression Inventory, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and Opiate Treatment Index subscales for heroin use and social functioning were used at baseline and follow-up assessments at 1, 2, 3 and 6 months.

Results: Forty-two participants were allocated to receive naltrexone treatment, whereas 38 continued methadone maintenance as the control condition. Participants who received naltrexone did not exhibit worsening of depressive symptoms. In participants attending all follow-up assessments, there was a trend for those receiving naltrexone to exhibit an improvement in depression over time compared with the control group. Participants who were adherent to naltrexone treatment exhibited fewer depressive symptoms than those who were nonadherent.

Conclusions: These results suggest that depression need not be considered a common adverse effect of naltrexone treatment or a treatment contraindication and that engaging with or adhering to naltrexone treatment may be associated with fewer depressive symptoms.

Keywords:  naltrexone, depression, dysphoria, opioid antagonist, randomized controlled, open-labeled, methadone

Keywords by  Erin Williams, student, St. Louis College of Pharmacy