What Is Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)?
Low Dose Naltrexone is the use of a medication called Naltrexone but at doses below 10 mg per day. The dosage is about 1/10 the dose of what is typically used when Naltrexone is prescribed. Historically, Naltrexone is a drug that was approved by the FDA in 1984 to treat opiate (heroin and opium) addiction or alcohol dependencies. Naltrexone, a competitive opioid receptor antagonist, is approved as supportive treatment in alcohol dependence and opioid addiction. The typical dose used in treating this is 50-100 mg/day. The standard dosage used with Low Dose Naltrexone is 4.5 mg or less per day.
What Is the history of Low Dose Naltrexone?
In 1981 Dr. Ian Zagon and Dr. Patricia McLaughlin, at Penn State University, discovered that using doses of Naltrexone below 10 mg can be beneficial in slowing down tumor growth in animals. In 1985 Dr. Bernard Bihari, a physician in New York City, discovered the beneficial effects of low doses of Naltrexone on the immune system in humans. In the mid-1990’s Dr. Bihari observed that it seemed to benefit his patients who had cancer and autoimmune diseases. Since then extensive research has been conducted over the past three decades to investigate the benefits of Low Dose Naltrexone in treating conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, MS (multiple sclerosis), Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
How Does Low Dose Naltrexone Work?
LDN primarily works by affecting endorphins, which are our body’s natural opioids. These are molecules that decrease pain and make us feel good. Low Dose Naltrexone binds to opioid receptors on the nerve cells, which has the effect of increasing both endorphin release and sensitivity of the cell to create a better response, in turn benefiting cell growth and immunity, which helps in treating autoimmune conditions.
What is the typical dose for Low Dose Naltrexone?
The typical dose for LDN is 1.5 mg – 4.5 mg/day. It can be used as a microdose as low as 0.001 mg/day and as high as 16 mg/day. However, the most common maintenance dose for LDN is 4.5 mg/day. It is typically recommended to slowly titrate up, starting with 1.5 mg/day for 7-14 days, then 3 mg/day for 7-14 days, then 4.5 mg/day for maintenance if well tolerated. It is generally recommended to take LDN for at least 3 months to see maximal benefit but is often taken long-term.
Is Low Dose Naltrexone Safe?
LDN is well-researched and is considered safe and is generally very well tolerated. The most common side effect is vivid dreams or insomnia and this is easily remedied by taking it in the morning rather than at night before bed.
How do I get a prescription for Low Dose Naltrexone?
LDN is available through most compounding pharmacies. It requires a prescription from your doctor. It is not available at conventional pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS and is not covered by insurance.
What Conditions Can be Treated with LDN?
- Autoimmune disorders (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus)
- Chronic pain
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome)
- Constipation (chronic)
- MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
- Diabetic Neuropathy
- Interstitial cystitis
- Mast cell activation syndrome
What are the contraindications for Low Dose Naltrexone?
LDN should not be used in people that are taking opioid pain medications like hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl or tramadol. It can potentially decrease the effectiveness of these medications.
Low Dose Naltrexone can help treat a wide variety of conditions, and your naturopathic doctor can evaluate if this is an appropriate treatment for you.
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