What is Low Dose Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is used to block the pleasure caused by alcohol and drugs and is hence used to stop alcohol or drug dependences. It works by blocking the brain’s opiate receptors and therefore depriving the user of the normal amount of pleasure given by their drugs or alcohol. Naltrexone for drug and alcohol dependence is normally given at the dosage levels between 50mgs and 300mgs.
Dr Bihari and Dr Zagon, began using Naltrexone at low dosages (originally 3mgs.) At this dose, they noticed that the opioid receptors were blocked but only for a short time. This caused the body to create more opioids. These opioids are useful for several reasons including blocking pain, creating endorphins and having an effect on the immune system. When used at these small doses, Naltrexone is known as ‘Low Dose Naltrexone’ (LDN.)
What is LDN used for?
LDN has been used in a wide variety of illnesses. This is due to many illnesses having an immune system or indeed an opioid-related aspect to them. Many autoimmune disease patients, cancers patients and various other illness patients have used LDN. For a list of studies and papers about LDN click here: http://www.fiikus.net/?ldnrefs
A small, pilot study was done on LDN and fibromyalgia. Those fibromyalgia patients taking LDN had on average a 30% reduction in pain and fatigue. LDN was better tolerated than the placebo in this pilot study. The Study can be read here: http://snapl.stanford.edu/research/ldn.html
No studies have been done on LDN and CFS
The safety of LDN
LDN is a very safe treatment and is considered one of the safest treatments for CFS. It virtually has no side effects. Some patients have vivid dreams when they start using LDN. It is reported that sleep disturbances occur in less than 2% of users taking LDN. Based on reading a number of anecdotal reports of CFS patients taking LDN, this number may be higher in CFS patients. Naltrexone side effects at doses of between 50mgs and 300mgs are generally rare so taking LDN at between 1.5mgs and 4.5mgs is regarded as safe.
LDN can cause drug interactions, so it shouldn’t be taken with narcotic pain killers or immunosuppressant drugs.
I started taking a 1.5mg dose of LDN on the 22nd of February 2010. I take the LDN capsule at 9.30pm and will gradually increase the dose from 1.5mgs to 3mgs to 4.5 mgs over the period of a few months. LDN should be taken between 9pm and 3am. Based on my response to the increasing dose, I may reduce the dose. I will be taking LDN for at least 3 months.
It is important to have a compounding pharmacy that is experienced in making LDN to fill your prescription. It is also important that they do NOT make it in a slow release form. To find a compounding pharmacy you can order from, you may need to join the LDN yahoo group, found here: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/lowdosenaltrexone/.
You may not be located within a reasonable distance to a good LDN compounding pharmacy and hence you may need to send your prescription away to one. I am fortunate to live within a few kilometres to a good LDN compounding pharmacy that makes LDN for people all around Australia.
LDN can be difficult to obtain. All doctors in Australia and the USA are able to prescribe LDN however they must do so off label. Most doctors have never prescribed LDN before and hence prescribing a drug that they have never prescribed before, off-label makes them hesitant. If you plan to ask your doctor to prescribe LDN for you, it is worth doing some research beforehand. An article has been written about how to ask your doctor for LDN, it can be found here: http://www.lowdosenaltrexone.org/gazorpa/PatientGuide.html
I recommend printing off information about LDN and giving it to your doctor to read. It your doctor isn’t willing to prescribe LDN for you (without any valid reasons,) it may be worth finding another doctor who is. The Yahoo LDN group, (found here http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/lowdosenaltrexone/) has many members around the world who have lists of doctors that prescribe LDN. Many pharmacists (especially compounding pharmacists) may know of doctors who are interested in and prescribe LDN.
LDN for CFS
I will be taking LDN for CFS. There haven’t been any studies on LDN and CFS. Despite this, over the past few years an increasing number of CFS patients have been taking LDN. Although anecdotal, a reasonable percentage have had an improvement in symptoms. Dr Bihari reports that around 50% of CFS patients are helped by LDN.
This may be due to
- LDN’s immunomodulatory effects.
- LDN increasing the endorphin levels (which may be low in CFS)
- LDN reducing microglial functioning levels which may be implicated in a ‘sickness response.’ Reducing these levels may reduce fatigue and pain.
I look forward to trying Low Dose Naltrexone and although it is only an experimental treatment, its mechanism for action may be potentially helpful. Low Dose Naltrexone’s relative cheapness and lack of side effects have added to its appeal for me to try.
For further information about Low Dose Naltrexone, here are some good websites: