It can help reduce pain and fight inflammation. It is used to treat autoimmune diseases, cancers, chronic pain and mental illness. And yet, most doctors are unfamiliar with this likely wonder drug: lose-dose naltrexone (LDN). In our latest free webinar, Susan Eichorst, PA-C, MMSc, discusses how LDN works, how it compares to regular naltrexone and how it can be beneficial to many people living with chronic illnesses.
What is low-dose naltrexone?
Low-dose naltrexone is a medication found to be very effective for treating autoimmune conditions (MS, Crohn’s disease, IBS, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis), chronic pain (peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia), female infertility, mental illnesses (major depressive disorder, PTSD), cancer (throat, ovarian, brain) and autism. So, if LDN can help treat all these conditions, is it a wonder drug? The answer: Maybe, probably yes for many people. But before we get into the details of LDN, let’s first discuss regular naltrexone.
How does regular naltrexone work?
Naltrexone is an FDA-approved opioid antagonist, meaning it works against opioids working in the body. It does so by blocking the receptor that opioids/narcotics and endorphins and enkephalins fit into. Endorphins and enkephalins are our body’s natural opioids, so they reduce inflammation and pain in response to injury and release a feeling of euphoria. Naltrexone was developed to remove that pleasure aspect, so that people suffering from opioid abuse and alcohol abuse could more easily wean off those substances. And in 2014, naltrexone was FDA-approved as a weight loss drug, helping to reduce cravings.
How does LDN differ from naltrexone?
Besides LDN being used off label, the main difference between LDN and naltrexone is their dosage. Naltrexone is prescribed at 50-150mg daily, meaning there is a complete blockage of receptors while you’re awake. LDN on the other hand, has a much lower dose with only 1.5-4.5mg at bedtime, meaning it only temporarily blocks receptors while you’re asleep. So, with LDN, once this blockade of pleasure wears off, the body can make more endorphins and more receptors. This is how the immune system heals.
What can LDN do?
With this new understanding, doctors and researchers found LDN was beneficial in improving the immune systems of HIV/AIDS patients, thus preventing common community-acquired infections. LDN was later found to inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer cells. There has also been success in reversing some forms of female infertility and improving many symptoms associated with autism as well as treatment for a range of autoimmune conditions.
Is LDN safe? How is it dispensed?
LDN has a low side effect profile, so it is a safe medication for many people. Common side effects include insomnia or disrupted sleep, vivid or disturbing dreams, rapid drop in thyroid antibodies and headaches usually only during the initial phase. While LDN is off label, there are numerous options for dispensing, including:
- Compounded medication (found at compounding pharmacies)
- Oral tablets or capsules (for adults)
- Liquid used sublingually
- Creams (best for children and based upon weight)
- For dogs and cats (based on weight and twice daily)
What should my expectations be while taking LDN?
It’s most important that with any medication, you be patient. Some people see benefits in a few days or weeks while others may wait months. Once you’re on the medication, your doses may need to be adjusted if insomnia or other side effects are disrupting your daily life. The bottom line when it comes to LDN is it’s meant to slow or halt the progression of your condition. That means decreased pain, increased function and better tolerated symptoms, pain or tumor growth. So again, be patient. We have seen a lot of success with this drug in many patients with varying health conditions.
Why doesn’t my doctor know about LDN?
LDN is not the money-making medication that drug reps are looking to advertise. It’s compounded, generic and very inexpensive so there’s no production promotion. And even if your doctor knows about LDN, they may be hesitant to recommend it as it’s been considered “alternative medicine” or for drug-addiction only. Which you’ve now learned, is not true!
How can I learn more about LDN?
If you’re looking for other resources to learn more about LDN, we suggest visiting LDNresearchtrust.org and LDNscience.org. Though cautiously, you can also find great information and personal experiences on LDN social media pages. And most importantly, the BESANA Health & Wellness team is here for you! Schedule an appointment with us today to learn if LDN is right for you.