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Low Dose Naltrexone: Modern Wonder Drug

By Dudley Delany, R.N., M.A., D.C.



Naltrexone is an inexpensive generic pharmaceutical approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for treating opiate and alcohol addiction. In very low doses, it is being found a cost-effective means of treating a wide range of health concerns, including HIV/AIDS, certain types of cancer, and a number of autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders. Side effects are usually both mild and transitory.

One small nightly dose of Naltrexone has the effect of temporarily blocking certain opioid receptors. This causes a several-fold increase in endogenous endorphins (opiate-like chemicals produced naturally in the body). This increase continues throughout much of the next day. As it turns out, that simple mechanism has profound consequences for one's health and well-being, for it is the boost in endorphins over an extended period that upregulates the immune system. This appears to be the most significant mechanism of action, although other, supplemental mechanisms have been proposed that involve T-regulatory cells, toll-like receptors, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and microglia.

This site provides a listing of conditions and diseases that are known to have responded to Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN):

http://tinyurl.com/responsive-to-ldn

In the case of systemic infections such as HIV/AIDS and Lyme disease, LDN boosts the immune system, helping the body fight off the invading pathogens.

In the case of cancers such as multiple myeloma and neuroblastoma, LDN inhibits proliferation of malignant cells.

In the case of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, LDN takes an aberrant immune system and helps restore it to normalcy.

In the case of inflammatory conditions like reflex sympathetic dystrophy, LDN acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

It is a matter of speculation as to how LDN works to successfully treat neurodegenerative disorders like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.

It is also not known how LDN successfully treats hereditary conditions like Hailey-Hailey disease.

In the early 1980s, Bernard Bihari, M.D., a now deceased New York neurologist, noticed that patients with HIV/AIDS who took Naltrexone for heroin addiction did not tend to develop the opportunistic diseases and conditions characteristic of a compromised immune system. He then began experimenting with its use in a wide variety of conditions, and the results were phenomenal.

This is an article about LDN by Dr. David Gluck, a colleague and life-long friend of Dr. Bihari:

http://tinyurl.com/gluck-on-ldn

It is estimated that about 100,000 people worldwide are now taking LDN, and the Internet abounds with patient testimonials regarding its safety and efficacy. This site features hundreds of video interviews with patients, doctors, pharmacists, and researchers regarding the merits of LDN:

http://vimeo.com/ldnresearchtrust

The first clinical trial of LDN published in the United States occurred in 2007 with an article in the American Journal of Gastroenterology by Dr. Jill Smith. Working with a small group of Crohn's sufferers, she found that 67% went into remission, and 89% showed at least some improvement. An abstract of the study can be found here:

http://tinyurl.com/1st-crohns-study

A few years later, Dr. Smith conducted a much larger clinical trial of LDN in the treatment of Crohn's disease and it also yielded impressive results. For details of the study, visit:

http://tinyurl.com/crohns-study-2

In September of 2008, the results were published of a six-month, multi-center clinical trial in Italy with multiple sclerosis patients. Again, the results were positive, and the investigators concluded that LDN is both safe and effective. An abstract of the study can be found here:

http://tinyurl.com/ldn-italian-ms-study

In February of 2010, the results of a patient-funded study of LDN in the treatment of multiple sclerosis found publication in the Annals of Neurolgy. LDN significanty improved several mental health quality-of-life indices. An abstract of the study appears here:

http://tinyurl.com/ucsf-ldn-study

In March of 2006, Burton Berkson, M.D., Ph.D., published an article in Integrative Cancer Therapies describing the successful treatment of an advanced case of pancreatic cancer using intravenous alpha lipoic acid (a powerful antioxidant) and oral LDN. This site features an abstract of the study:

http://tinyurl.com/ldn-pancreatic-cancer-study

In December of 2009, Dr. Berkson published in the same journal the results of using a similar combination of intravenous alpha lipoic acid and oral LDN in the successful treatment of three more cases of pancreatic cancer. This site presents an abstract of the study:

http://tinyurl.com/ldn-pancreatic-cancer-3-cases

In the May-June, 2009, issue of Pain Medicine, a pilot study was presented in which a group of fibromyalgia sufferers experienced a greater than 30% reduction in painful symptoms when taking LDN. The investigators concluded that LDN "may be an effective, highly tolerable, and inexpensive treatment for fibromyalgia." An article about the study can be read here:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2891387

Similar results were obtained in a replication of the study as described here:

http://tinyurl.com/ldn-fms-study-2

This is an exciting time in the development of LDN, as clinical trials are currently either underway or enrolling participants both in the U.S and abroad as a treatment for fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS, and Crohn's disease.

The most frequently reported side effects of LDN are vivid dreams and trouble sleeping. They are usually short lived, however, and can be countered with sleep aids like melatonin. The cost to take LDN at the recommended adult dose of 4.5 mg is about $1.00 a day, a far cry from many pharmaceuticals on the market today. This site discusses LDN side effects and dosing:

https://tinyurl.com/ldn-side-effects-and-dosing

It is the opinion of many that LDN is one of the greatest discoveries in modern medicine since the advent of penicillin.

Low Dose Naltrexone is an exception to the rule that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

I am not saying that LDN is a cure-all. For the most part, it is only a treatment, not a cure (somewhat like insulin for diabetics). In some cases, it works wonders. In other cases, it appears to have no effect at all. In still other cases, it is only partially beneficial. To the best of my knowledge, however, there has never been a drug that could help so many different conditions at such a low cost and with so few side effects. To me, that is a wonder!

For additional information about LDN, visit

http://tinyurl.com/an-intro-to-ldn

and watch this video documentary:

http://vimeo.com/131314110