Low-Dose Naltrexone may help in relieving pain with Fibromyalgia and other Autoimmune conditions
Naltrexone was first synthesized in 1963 as an oral opioid receptor antagonist. Naltrexone HCl was approved by FDA in 1984 for the treatment of opioid addiction with the typical daily dosage of 50.0–100.0 mg.
LDN, or low-dose naltrexone, refers to daily dosages of naltrexone that are approximately one tenth of the usual opioid addiction treatment dosage. In most published research, the daily dosage for LDN treatment in around 4.5 mg, although this may vary a few milligrams more or less than that. At such a low dosage, naltrexone exhibits analgesia and anti-inflammatory attributes, which have not been reported at larger dosages. Basic research examining the use of opioid antagonists for treating diseases and chronic pain did not start to appear until the late 1980s, and the first published LDN trial in humans was presented in 2007. Since then, LDN has been studied in a small number of labs and has been slowly gaining attention as a possible treatment for some chronic medical conditions.
These lower doses actually increase the level of endorphins in your body by only partially blocking your opioid receptors briefly when your endorphin levels are typically highest (around 3 to 4 in the morning). This signals to your brain that your levels are low, so it pumps up the production of endorphins, increasing your overall levels.
Autoimmune patients (and cancer patients) typically have lower levels of endorphins than people without autoimmunity and LDN has been found to be beneficial for some autoimmune patients. We don’t know exactly how endorphins help modulate the immune system or why they are decreased in autoimmune patients, but studies have shown anti-inflammatory benefits and a decrease in symptoms in patients with Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease and others who were treated with LDN. A Google search will also find a considerable number of success stories from patients and physicians to who have seen great results using Low-dose Naltrexone as an autoimmune treatment.
LDN has been used for many autoimmune conditions, although it has typically been found most effective for painful conditions. According to lowdosenaltrexone.org, patients and physicians have seen success with LDN in almost every autoimmune disease, including: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis,Hashimoto’s, Celiac, Psoriasis, Sjogren’s, Scleroderma and even Autism.
Use of LDN in chronic pain
LDN has been tested in a small number of chronic pain conditions. One such condition is fibromyalgia. FM is a chronic pain disorder that is characterized by musculoskeletal pain and extreme fatigue, cognitive disruption and difficulty sleeping, among other symptoms. Two separate clinical trials showed that LDN may be an effective treatment for FM. In both trials, LDN was administered at 4.5 mg daily, one time per day at night before bedtime.
In the first crossover trial, published in 2009, LDN reduced fibromyalgia pain significantly greater than placebo in 6 out of the 10 women. While the pilot study was encouraging, it had limitations such as a single-blind design. To help validate the findings, a second study in 30 women with fibromyalgia was conducted. In that double-blind, crossover, counterbalanced study, 57 % of the participants were observed to exhibit a significant (1/3) reduction of pain during LDN. At the end of the LDN treatment, half of the participants reported feeling “much improved” or “very much improved” from LDN. Together, these two studies suggest that LDN is superior to placebo in reducing the pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Low-dose naltrexone has been shown to reduce symptom severity in conditions such as fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and complex regional pain syndrome. It may be that LDN functions as an anti-inflammatory agent in the central nervous system, through the microglial cells. These seem to be unique to low dosages of naltrexone and entirely independent from naltrexone’s better-known activity on opioid receptors. As a daily regimen, LDN is inexpensive and tolerated well.
LDN Side Effects
There are virtually no side effects of LDN. Some people report vivid dreams and/or difficulty sleeping. Those with Multiple Sclerosis can sometimes report muscle spasms. Feedback on either of these side effects is very rare and lowering the dosage slightly usually handles it.
One of the most exciting aspects of LDN is the low reported incidence of adverse side effects. We have not seen incidences of ulcers, renal insufficiency, interference with warfarin and other common medications, increased heart attack or clotting risk, or other problems that can be seen with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. We have observed no cases of severe adverse events in our research, and none have been reported from other laboratories. We have observed no withdrawal symptoms when LDN treatment is stopped, and withdrawal is not a known effect of treatment discontinuance. However, the complete sample size of all LDN trials combined is still quite small and thus clinically useful data and experience are limited.
There are also some reports of LDN being so effective in patients with Hashimoto’s that it rapidly decreases antibodies and restores thyroid function, requiring a decrease in supplemental thyroid hormone, which is something we will watch for.
LDN does not exert any euphoric effects, and we know of no cases of LDN misuse or abuse or the development of dependence with this medication. Studies have shown that the cessation of LDN is generally followed by a slow return of symptoms to baseline levels, meaning it is not a cure, but simply used for relief of symptoms.
Contact us for more information about Low-Dose Naltrexone Treatment
Here at Renewed Vitality, when it is indicated, we may use LDN treatment to help relieve symptoms in our patients, while at the same time focusing on getting to the root causes of your symptoms. This is something you can discuss with your practitioner at your appointment.