What is low-dose naltrexone (LDN) and why is it important?
Naltrexone was approved by the FDA in 1984 in a 50mg dose for the purpose of helping heroin or opium addicts, by blocking the effect of such drugs. In technical terms, it is an opioid antagonist. By blocking opioid receptors, naltrexone also blocks the reception of the opioid hormones (endorphins) that our brain and adrenal glands produce – beta-endorphin and metenkephalin. Many body tissues have receptors for the endorphins, including virtually every cell of the body’s immune system.
How does LDN work? According to Dr. Bihari’s information, the brief blockade of opioid (endorphin) receptors that is caused by taking LDN at bedtime each night is believed to produce a prolonged up-regulation of vital elements of the immune system by causing an increase in endorphin production. Normal volunteers who have taken LDN in this fashion have been found to have much higher levels of beta-endorphins circulating in their blood in the following days. It is believed that the endorphins act to increase natural killer cells and other healthy immune defenses against cancer
- ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Celiac disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Practically ANY CONDITION that may in any way be associated with inflammation
Are there any side effects or cautionary warnings? Naltrexone in these low doses (LDN) has virtually no side effects. Occasionally, during the first week’s use, patients may complain of some difficulty sleeping. This rarely persists after the first week. Should it do so, dosage can be reduced to 1.5mg nightly.
Cautionary warnings: Because naltrexone blocks opioid receptors throughout the body for several hours, people using narcotic medication (such as codeine or morphine) should not take naltrexone simultaneously. It should probably not be taken during pregnancy.
Full-dose naltrexone (50mg) carries a caution against its use in those with liver disease. This warning was placed because of adverse liver effects that were found in experiments involving 300mg daily. The 50mg dose does not apparently produce impairment of liver function nor, of course, does the much smaller 3mg dose.
All physicians understand that appropriate off-label use of an already FDA-approved medication such as naltrexone is perfectly ethical and legal. Naltrexone itself has already passed toxicity studies.