What Is Low Dose Naltrexone?
Updated: Jan 23
What Is Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is a medication that is used in alcohol and opioid addiction treatment. It reduces cravings by binding to opiate receptors in the brain. When it's used for this purpose it's dosed around 50 mg per day.
Naltrexone can also be used at much lower doses for a variety of conditions, most notably to modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. Typical dosing of LDN is between 0.5 - 4.5 mg per day.
How LDN Works in Our Body
LDN acts like a modulator to our immune system, increasing helpful immune cells and decreasing other damaging cells and the substances they release.
LDN can be useful for pain and mood because it increases substances in our body such as endorphins and enkephalins, that reduce our perception of pain in the brain and body. It also has effects on other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, epinephrine, serotonin and dopamine, which regulate concentration and mood.
It promotes tissue healing and growth by aiding in the production of DNA and is especially beneficial in Crohn's disease, which is a gastrointestinal disease. LDN can improve bowel movement control and heal the lining of the intestinal tissue.
Conditions that may benefit from LDN include:
Safety and Side Effects
LDN should be used cautiously if you're already taking pain relieving opiate medications because it can block the effects of these drugs resulting in breakthrough pain.
Because LDN is used at such a low dose you have to get it compounded from a compounding pharmacy. If you don't have one near you there are pharmacies that your doctor can order from and have your prescription shipped to you.
It's important to slowly increase the dose of LDN so it's recommended to start low, usually around 1.5 mg per day. The dose of LDN is increased over the course of a few weeks until you reach the dose that works for you, usually around 3 - 4.5 mg. The dose is taken at night and may cause insomnia or vivid dreams, but these tend to go away within about a week as your body gets used to it. If the sleep issues are too disturbing, you can try melatonin for sleep or take LDN in the morning.
If you'd like to learn more about LDN visit The LDN Research Trust.
Naltrexone is used for addiction treatment at high doses, but has different effects at low doses. LDN has immune modulating activity and reduces inflammatory cells and the substances they produce. Conditions that may benefit include cancer, autoimmune disease, Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia, chronic pain and chronic infections. Use caution if you are taking opiate medications. LDN is dosed at night in a range of 0.5 - 4.5 mg. It can cause insomnia and vivid dreams. Because it's used off-label it needs to be compounded by a pharmacy.
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Anderson, P. (2019, November). Low Dose Naltrexone. Retrieved from https://www.consultdranderson.com/
Toljan, K., & Vrooman, B. (2018). Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN)—Review of Therapeutic Utilization. Medical Sciences, 6(4), 82. doi: 10.3390/medsci6040082
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