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What Are the Different Uses for Low Dose Naltrexone?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2016
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Low dose naltrexone (LDN) is an experimental medical therapy under investigation for the treatment of inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases. Proponents of this treatment believe it boosts immune function and can be beneficial for patients with autoimmune diseases. Patients interested in low dose naltrexone may be able to enroll in clinical trials to access the medication while providing valuable information for medical practitioners and researchers.

Naltrexone was originally developed in the 1980s for the treatment of drug dependency. The drug blocks opioid receptors and is accepted in treatment for patients with conditions like heroin addition who need assistance as they wean from the drugs. In experimental research, the drug shows some applications for diseases caused by autoimmune reactions or a malfunctioning immune system. Research into the medication is a topic of interest in several medical fields, and the latest research data can be found in medical journals that document ongoing experiments and findings in fields like pain management and infectious disease treatment.

Patients with diseases believed to have an autoimmune method of action, like fibromyalgia, Crohn's disease, and multiple sclerosis, may benefit from low dose naltrexone. Doctors usually do not prescribe the medication unless the patient is taking an additional, clinically proved, medication. This ensures that patients receive treatment adequate to their needs, in case the low dose naltrexone is not sufficient to address the issue. A 2009 study at Stanford University suggested low dose naltrexone had applications for pain therapy in fibromyalgia patients.

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In patients with a compromised immune system, such as AIDS and cancer patients, low dose naltrexone may help to boost the immune system. As a part of systemic therapy to treat the disease, it could extend quality of life and also improve a patient's chances of survival. These uses are experimental; opioid medications are known to have a suppressive effect on the immune system, but researchers do not necessarily believe low dose naltrexone can have the opposite effect.

As with other medications under experimental investigation, it can be difficult to access low dose naltrexone. A doctor may be reluctant to prescribe the drug without demonstrated evidence that it will improve the patient's condition. Insurance companies usually will not cover the medication because they do not endorse experimental drugs. Patients with an interest in this drug should discuss it with their doctors and explore the available options; a doctor may not be comfortable prescribing it but could offer a referral or assistance with joining a clinical trial.

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