Alcoholism is a serious problem around the world, According to the World Health Organization, globally, around 2.5 million deaths each year result from harmful alcohol use. Alcohol is the underlying cause of more than 30 conditions (e.g. cancer, diabetes, neuropsychiatric diseases, cardiovascular diseases, liver and pancreas diseases and unintentional and intentional injury) and a contributing factor to many more conditions. Alcohol is the leading risk factor for the burden of disease in the Western Pacific and the Americas.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist which primarily, but not exclusively, targets the m-opioid receptor. Naltrexone likely exerts its actions in relation to alcohol by blockade of the high concentration of m-opioid receptors located in areas of the brain that have been implicated in the reward pathway.
In a systematic review of the effectiveness of naltrexone published in 2008, data collected also suggested that it was most beneficial for alcohol dependent patients.
To date there has been no randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of this naltrexone implant as a treatment for alcohol dependence. Nevertheless, case series clinical outcome data were reviewed in 47 alcohol dependent persons treated with the OLANI. Thirty-six of these patients had treatment outcome data at 6 months, with 77% not drinking. Overall those reviewed showed lower levels of alcohol use and improved quality of life post- compared with pre-treatment.
Anyone who can pass the naloxone challenge can be fitted straightaway with an OLANI. The procedure followed is identical to the procedure for candidates being treated for opiate abuse.
This video from 60 Minutes Australia tells the story of Joey - an alcoholic. At the end of the film she is given OLANI implants. The documentary was made in 2007. She has been sober since then.