Traditionally, naltrexone has been prescribed to help fight opiate and alcohol addiction as this disease takes over the lives of 10% of the US’s adult population. Naltrexone acts as an opiate antagonist, which means that it binds and blocks the opioid receptors. This prevents withdrawal symptoms and craving in people who are in recovery.
Combined with professional treatment and support groups, the use of naltrexone has been very successful in treating drug and alcohol addicts. However, over the past few decades, naltrexone has surfaced for treating something it wasn’t even intended to: chronic pain.
From Crohn’s Disease to Fibromyalgia, Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) has shown to successfully treat chronic pain and has improved the lives of many patients. We’ll take a look at what you should know about LDN and chronic pain.
What LDN is and Dosage
LDN refers to daily doses of naltrexone that is less than one-tenth of the typical dose used for treating opioid addiction. An LDN dose of 4.5mg is usually taken before bedtime but this number may vary depending on the severity of the pain and the experience of the user. Some have experienced insomnia thus having to reduce the dosage.
Naltrexone, however, isn’t manufactured at these low doses and is usually produced at doses of 50mg. Instead, patients would go to compounding pharmacies to get their needs met.
At lower dosages, LDN has shown analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. This isn’t seen in larger dosages.
How it Works
The type of chronic pain in which LDN manages to suppress in most published studies is chronic nerve pain derived from autoimmune disorders. To keep it simple, this happens when one’s central nervous system is overworked, thus triggering the microglia cells and firing pain signals.
Microglia constitutes 80% of the central nervous system and acts as the immune cells for the nervous system. The rest of it is nerve cells.
The main reasons for this are still unknown, but some factors such as genetics, gender, and ethnicity come into play. In healthy people, the glia cells remain inactive.
Once the microglia cells are triggered, inflammatory and excitatory factors are produced, paving the way to many chemicals being released and eventually causing a lot of pain. At times, even the slightest of movements can trigger this pain.
So where does LDN come into the picture?
LDN has been shown to inhibit this microglia activation. This prevents much of the inflammatory and excitatory factors from being released and allows the body’s natural production of pain killers (endorphins) to come into action.
Essentially, you are telling your body to stop firing pain signals and allow your natural pain killers to be released.
Promising Clinical Trials
Currently, there is still no FDA-approved use for LDN in treating chronic pain, despite some doctors still prescribing it for that purpose. However, clinical trials have shown encouraging results for those suffering from autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s Disease and multiple sclerosis.
LDN has also shown to improve the quality of life for non-autoimmune disorder patients such as those suffering from fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
Although many have reaped the benefits of LDN, you should consult your doctor before consuming it as it may react with other drugs you’re taking.