For months I have been coming across mention of the off-label use of a medication – low dose naltrexone (LDN) – and its remarkable usefulness in treating various illnesses, including Lyme disease, MS, cancer, Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and chronic viral infections such as HIV. Just by Googling “low dose naltrexone” I came across copious testimonials of people who are trying to help others by spreading the word of their sometimes dramatic improvements since adding LDN to their treatment protocols or even as a stand alone treatment (many of them suffering from neurological diseases such as MS, Parkinson’s and/or Lyme disease). Naturally curious as well as circumspect, I decided I would read whatever I could on the use of low dose naltrexone and then consult with my LLMD to see if he has had any experience in treating patients with it. It didn’t hurt to find out that low dose naltrexone has a long history of safety and lack of serious side effects.
So, what is “low dose naltrexone”?
Naltrexone is an FDA-approved opiate antagonist that has traditionally been used to wean alcoholics and opioid dependent drug users off the substances, but, in a low dose (referred to as “low dose naltrexone” which is approx. 1/10 the dose used for drug/alcohol rehabilitation), can boost the immune system — helping those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and central nervous system disorders.
Low dose naltrexone blocks the opiate receptor for about four hours which causes a rebound effect resulting in a dramatic increase in endogenous opiate production.
“Certain medications will work against the naltrexone such as Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone and other opiate/opioid narcotics. These medications should not be taken while on Naltrexone, as nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, chills, and sometimes numbness in the limbs may occur. Naltrexone may also interfere or counteract both low and high doses of over-the-counter NSAID medications.”
Amazingly, LDN can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, modulate the immune system, and even inhibit cancer cell proliferation.
LDN is generally used in doses ranging from 3-4.5 mg daily, but many people start at 1.4 mg and work their way up. People with multiple sclerosis (MS) and muscle spasticity tend to do better on a 3 mg dose than the standard 4.5 mg dose recommended for neurodegenerative disorders.
From what I have read, the most common side effects of LDN are waking up in the middle of the night and vivid dreams which tend to subside a few weeks after beginning the treatment. Although the recommendation at one time was to take LDN in the evening before going to sleep, LDN can be taken at any time which might mitigate any possible sleep disturbance.
Dr David Gluck discusses how LDN works, its successful track record, and the politics of why much of the medical community is either unaware of its many uses or have not yet embraced LDN in their practice.
Effects of LDN
“The Pennsylvania State University researcher, Dr. Ian Zagon, Ph.D. has been studying LDN for 25 years and reports that LDN’s most important effect is its ability to increase production of met-5-enkephalin, which he named opioid growth factor (OGF) for its functional properties. The endogenous opiates are neurotransmitters as well as cytokines, influencing the activities of immune system cells and having distinct biochemical effects (e.g. growth factors, neurotrophic factors, antiviral activity, anti-tumor activity, anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory effects).
OGF forms a complex or system when it reacts with the OGF receptor, a receptor found on immune system cells and cancer cells. This system inhibits inflammation and cancer cell growth. This system also restores homeostasis, a natural process in which the body’s cells and systems work together to maintain health. Thus, LDN helps the body heal itself. In certain cancers, OGF is used in place of LDN.
Dr. Jau-Shyong (John) Hong of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) discovered that LDN also prevents microglial activation, the main cause of chronic brain inflammation. In addition, LDN has antioxidant properties that reduce the effects of free radicals throughout the body, thereby reducing chronic inflammation.
LDN also causes changes that reduce neuronal degeneration. As a consequence, LDN offers protection against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and MS. Chronic inflammation contributes to the persistence of autoimmune disorders and is an underlying cause of many conditions, including Crohn’s disease.
By increasing endorphins, which are immunomodulators, LDN improves immune function. Immunomodulators stimulate antibody production in patients with immunodeficiency (HIV infection) and reduce antibody production in patients with excessive antibody production (autoimmune disorders, herpes, Lyme disease).
The Common Link
Doctors Zagon and Hong and other experts in the field reported that diseases which respond favorably to LDN are diseases that benefit from effects on cell proliferation (cancer inhibition) or from a reduction in inflammation (neurodegenerative and autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia) or that benefit from the restoration of homeostasis and immunomodulation (virtually all disorders, including infectious diseases).
To date, LDN has been studied or is undergoing clinical trials for pancreatic and head and neck cancers, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS, neuroblastoma, melanoma, autism, Parkinson’s disease, lymphoma, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. There are also many anecdotal reports that suggest LDN offers benefits in a wide range of other autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases and malignancies. Clinical trials are needed to confirm the anecdotal reports.”
Because LDN blocks opioid receptors throughout the body for three or four hours, people using medicine that is an opioid agonist, i.e. narcotic medication — such as Ultram (tramadol), morphine, Percocet, Duragesic patch or codeine-containing medication — should not take LDN until such medicine is completely out of one’s system. Patients who have become dependant on daily use of narcotic-containing pain medication may require 10 days to 2 weeks of slowly weaning off of such drugs entirely (while first substituting full doses of non-narcotic pain medications) before being able to begin LDN safely.
Those patients who are taking thyroid hormone replacement for a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis with hypothyroidism ought to begin LDN at the lowest range (1.5mg for an adult). Be aware that LDN may lead to a prompt decrease in the autoimmune disorder, which then may require a rapid reduction in the dose of thyroid hormone replacement in order to avoid symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Wow. Could it really be a panacea? Well, no, unfortunately not everyone benefits from taking low dose naltrexone. I will keep you posted on what my LLMD has to say about using LDN for Lyme disease when I see him in three weeks…until then, read on low dose naltrexone as it just may be of help!
I decided to hold off for now on trying LDN as, when I went off all the antibiotics earlier this year, I was deciding between trying a Rife machine or the LDN (I didn’t want to do two big therapies at once or else I felt I wouldn’t be able to tell what was doing what), and so ended up going with the Rife machine. I have a script for the LDN and it is on my list of things to try, so I most likely will. I will keep you updated!
You really want to have low dose naltrexone compounded by a pharmacy that has had experience in making it up as there are various fillers that are better than others and you can find a list of recommended pharmacies that ship throughout the US and even the world by going to http://www.lowdosenaltrexone.org/
*Low dose naltrexone should be compounded as 4.5 mg vegicapsules using Avicil as the filler and put in Veggicapsules! It is recommended that calcium carbonate is not used as a filler for tablets as it can impede the absorption of the LDN. As well, some pharmacies have been supplying a slow-release form of naltrexone. Pharmacies should be instructed NOT to provide LDN in an “SR” or slow-release or timed-release form because unless the low dose of naltrexone is in an unaltered form, which permits it to reach a prompt “spike” in the blood stream, its therapeutic effects may be inhibited.. The recommended dose is 4.5 mg, but some people, especially those with severe MS, feel better on a slightly lower dose of 3 mg. Sometimes prescriptions are written for 1.5 mg capsules so that the patient can try taking either two or three at once. LDN is relatively inexpensive, usually costing between $15 and $40 a month.
In “Up the Creek with a Paddle” by Mary Boyle Bradley, she writes about her husband’s experience with LDN and MS, and her uncle’s experience with LDN and Parkinson’s disease.
I am now reading and would highly recommend you get “The Promise Of Low Dose Naltrexone Therapy: Potential Benefits in Cancer, Autoimmune, Neurological and Infectious Disorders” by Elaine A. Moore (Author), Dr. Yash P. Agrawal (Foreword), Samantha Wilkinson (Collaborator). For more information you can visit
“Those Who Suffer Know Much” is a book that is distributed free of charge (Free download!) that gives many health case studies of using LDN in a broad range of diseases.
“The Lyme Disease Solution” by Ken Singleton, M.D. has a chapter about the use of LDN.
1. “Naltrexone”. Wikipedia.com
2. Moore, Elaine. “Benefits of Low Dose Naltrexone: Immunomodulatory and Biochemical Effects of LDN“. March 2, 2008. Suite101.com