Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist with established efficacy, albeit moderate, for the treatment of alcohol dependence. This manuscript provides a critical review of the literature on naltrexone as a pharmacotherapy for alcoholism by covering the following areas: (a) clinical findings from treatment studies; (b) pharmacokinetics and safety data; (c) medication compliance and persistence; and (d) neurobiological and biobehavioral mechanisms of action of naltrexone for the indication of alcohol dependence. This review will then focus on the emerging literature on naltrexone pharmacogenetics, which has the potential to identify responders on the basis of genetic variation and to use genetic tools to individualize the use of this medication. Limitations and future directions in the research and practice of naltrexone for alcoholism are also outlined.
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