Mystery Ingredients, Customs Delays: The Risks of Buying Naltrexone Online Without a Prescription

Medically reviewed by John Mendelson, M.D. on

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Pharmaceuticals like naltrexone, and other anti-alcoholism drugs, aren’t always easy to access in the United States. Why? One reason is that many doctors are simply unaware of the benefits of naltrexone, and other medications for treating alcohol use disorder (AUD). This means that some patients may be denied a prescription for these potentially life-saving medications. As a result, they may turn to ordering them online from foreign countries.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center estimates that nearly 2 million Americans buy their medications online. But that can be risky. Here are five things to consider before you buy naltrexone or other prescription medications from overseas.

1. You Don’t Know What You’re Actually Getting

If you don’t buy your drugs from a reputable provider, you have no way of knowing what’s in that bottle. Many rogue pharmacies around the world operate under questionable conditions, standards, and circumstances. Their products may contain too much or too little of the active ingredients, or they may contain extra “mystery ingredients” that could damage your health (including, believe it or not, rat poison).

“You need to take it seriously,” warns Dr. John Mendelson, Ria Health’s chief medical officer. “Would you take chemotherapy that you bought online from India?”

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2. You’ll Probably Pay Way Too Much

If you think that you’ll automatically save lots of money by purchasing your medication through “alternative” sources, think again. The truth is that many drugs ordered through rogue pharmacies come at a higher price than you’d have paid from an FDA-approved source, despite the providers’ promises. This is especially true if you’re having them shipped from halfway around the globe.

3. Your Medication Might Get Delayed by Customs

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) routinely intercepts inbound international pharmaceutical shipments, routing them to the FDA for inspection and examination. This process can take up to 35 or even 60 days. That’s over a month that you could have spent getting better. Even then, there’s a very good chance that CBP will prohibit the importation of your drug—meaning that you’ll never get it at all.

4. You Won’t Know How (or Whether) to Take Your Drug

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In addition to not knowing what’s really in that pill bottle, you may also find yourself wondering exactly how to take your medication—or whether you should take it at all.

For instance, naltrexone can cause problems if you have kidney or liver disease, a history of mental illness, or allergies to certain substances. It can also interact with a variety of other medications—especially opiates. Obtaining and using your medication under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner can help prevent tragic errors.

5. You’ll Have the Drugs, But Not the Plan

Naltrexone and related drugs can reduce your physical craving for alcohol, but they’re truly effective only when administered as a part of a larger, holistic treatment plan.

“It’s not just the medicine, it’s the management,” notes Dr. Mendelson. “This is not a do-it-yourself problem. Some people do fine handling prescription treatment on their own, but most people need expert treatment.” If you’re taking the drugs without also receiving the benefit of our professional recovery coaching, guidance, and supervision, you’re only taking the first step in a longer journey.

Whether or not you buy naltrexone through our Ria Health telemedicine program, at least make sure you obtain it from a legitimate, trustworthy source. You’ll thank yourself later. Ria Health Certified Recovery Coach Sara Miller offers the following pair of anecdotes:

I had one client who had been taking naltrexone for about six months from a Southeast Asian pharmacy and wasn’t able to stop drinking daily. He gave up for a few months until he found Ria Health and the C Three Foundation. After the first month on FDA-approved naltrexone, he had cut his drinking in half. Another client would buy naltrexone from the internet without a prescription. The pills she got worked pretty well, but they gave her intense headaches. She switched to the prescribed naltrexone, and the headaches went away.

The easiest way to boost your odds of success is to let Ria Health manage your alcohol moderation plan, including your use of naltrexone and other medications. We can help you stop binging and control your drinking the safe, reliable, effective way.

Ready to get started? Get in touch with a member of our team today.

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Written By:
Ria Health Team
Ria Health’s editorial team is a group of experienced copywriters, researchers, and healthcare professionals dedicated to removing stigma and improving public knowledge around alcohol use disorder. Articles written by the “Ria Team” are collaborative works completed by several members of our writing team, fact-checked and edited to a high standard of empathy and accuracy.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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