Posted by: Chris Maloney | November 5, 2011

Is Low Dose Naltrexone The Cure for Autoimmune Diseases?

Prescription placebos used in research and pra...

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In the realm I live, I usually get one or two “this cures everything” supplement or protocol every week.

In this situation, I learned of low dose Naltrexone from a colleague who gets very enthusiastic about what works.  (We love you, my friend!)  He stated that this protocol was the cure for autoimmune disease.

Not just some, or most, but all.

If you look at the Low Dose Naltrexone website, it pretty much says the same thing.  It cures everything.

So what is this wonder drug?  A drug for people coming off heroin.  It blocks the opiod receptor sites.  There are opoid receptor sites all over the body.  So blocking these sites somehow resets the immune system.

Unlike many treatments, there is some data that supports the use of low dose Naltrexone for a variety of illnesses.  But it’s pretty preliminary.  The data does say that low dose means almost no side effects.  It might work, and it doesn’t hurt, so why not try it?  Ok, if you do a complete diet and lifestyle change as well, maybe.

The dosage that low dose recommends is 4.5 mg, again that’s for everyone.  Your four hundred pound uncle Joe and your twelve-year-old evidently have no variation in what they need.

So does it work?  Well, not really.  Sorry, Low Dose Naltrexone.  I’m sure I’ll get hate mail because individuals have been cured while on the drug.  That’s fine, and people will continue to find the site and use the drug.  But before I go out and find another doctor to prescribe it for my patients, I’d like to see stronger results than I see below.

The first is an open study, which showed mild mental health benefit.  The second was blinded, and showed no benefit.  Does this prove it doesn’t work?  No.  It shows it doesn’t work for all autoimmune diseases for everyone.  So let’s tone down our claims and start considering differentiating how much different people need.  Then I might consider it.

Ann Neurol. 2010 Aug;68(2):145-50.

Pilot trial of low-dose naltrexone and quality of life in
multiple sclerosis.

Cree BA, Kornyeyeva E, Goodin DS.


Multiple SclerosisCenterat University
of California, San Francisco, 94117, USA.



To evaluate the efficacy of 4.5mg nightly naltrexone on the
quality of life of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.


This single-center, double-masked, placebo-controlled,
crossover study evaluated the efficacy of 8 weeks of treatment with 4.5mg nightly
naltrexone (low-dose naltrexone, LDN) on self-reported quality of life of MS


Eighty subjects with clinically definite MS were enrolled,
and 60 subjects completed the trial. Ten withdrew before completing the first
trial period: 8 for personal reasons, 1 for a non-MS-related adverse event, and
1 for perceived benefit. Database management errors occurred in 4 other
subjects, and quality of life surveys were incomplete in 6 subjects for unknown
reasons. The high rate of subject dropout and data management errors
substantially reduced the trial’s statistical power. LDN was well tolerated,
and serious adverse events did not occur. LDN was associated with significant
improvement on the following mental health quality of life measures: a 3.3-point
improvement on the Mental Component Summary score of the Short Form-36 General
Health Survey (p = 0.04), a 6-point improvement on the Mental Health Inventory
(p < 0.01), a 1.6-point improvement on the Pain Effects Scale (p =.04), and
a 2.4-point improvement on the Perceived Deficits Questionnaire (p = 0.05).


LDN significantly improved mental health quality of life
indices. Further studies with LDN in MS are warranted.

Comment in

Ann Neurol. 2010 Aug;68(2):124-5.

PMID: 20695007

Mult Scler. 2010 Aug;16(8):964-9. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

The effect of low-dose naltrexone on quality of life of
patients with multiple sclerosis: a randomized placebo-controlled trial.

Sharafaddinzadeh N, Moghtaderi A, Kashipazha D, Majdinasab
N, Shalbafan B.


Neurology Department, Jondi-Shapoor
University of Medical Sciences,Ahwaz,Iran.



Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) may promote psychological
well-being as well as generalized health especially in autoimmune disorders.
The objective of this study is to assess the effect of LDN on the Quality of
Life (QoL) of patients with relapsing-remitting and secondary progressive
multiple sclerosis (MS) using the scales and composite scores of the MSQoL-54


A 17-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled,
parallel-group, crossover-design clinical trial was conducted in two
universities. A total of 96 adult patients aged between 15 and 65 years with
relapsing-remitting (RR) or secondary progressive (SP) clinically definite MS
with disease duration longer than 6 months enrolled into the study. The primary
outcome of the study was comparison of the scores of physical and mental health
by conducting independent t-test of the results obtained in the middle and at
the end of study between the two groups.


Variables including presence of pain, energy, emotional
well-being, social, cognitive, and sexual functions, role limitation due to physical and emotional problems, health distress, and overall QoL did not show any meaningful statistically difference between the two groups. Factor analysis
revealed that health perception scores were statistically different between the
groups before starting, in the middle, and at the end of the study.


The study clearly illustrates that LDN is a relatively safe
therapeutic option in RRMS and SPMS but its efficacy is under question and
probably a long duration trial is needed in the future.

PMID: 20534644


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