It seems that new research demonstrating the benefits of daily low dose naltrexone (LDN) usage is published every month. Recently there have been case studies and reports showing that LDN may an effective treatment for dermatological conditions. A majority of existing treatments for these conditions are topical, making LDN a unique oral option that is non-toxic and can be used on a daily basis.
LDN and Dermatology
LDN (low-dose naltrexone) is a lower-dose version of the drug naltrexone, which has been used for many years to help individuals recover from opiate dependency. At lower doses, naltrexone exhibits anti-inflammatory properties that are not seen at the higher doses used for drug addiction. Examples of conditions that have been treated with LDN are inflammatory bowel diseases, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. All of these conditions are associated with inflammation. Inflammation can affect many parts of the body, especially the body’s largest organ: the skin. That is why dermatology researchers and clinicians have started to try LDN to treat a variety of skin conditions.
Familial benign pemphigus, also called Hailey-Hailey Disease, is a rare dermatological condition that can be debilitating. This genetic condition is due to a gene mutation that results in blisters as skin cells fail to adhere properly. A recent case study was conducted using LDN to treat Hailey-Hailey disease. Remarkably, each of the three patients studied exhibited at least an 80% improvement in the extent of their disease. One patient even had a 90% clearance of their condition. No adverse effects were reported as part of this study.
Psoriasis is a common dermatological condition that results in painful, itchy patches of skin cells that are overproduced. Many oral medications, topical treatments, and laser and light devices are used to manage psoriasis. In a case study published recently, a 65 year old female patient who had psoriasis covering about 10% of her body was treated with LDN daily. After six months, the patient’s psoriasis had been reduced to only 1% of her body. She also experienced less itching in the patches that remained. The patient continues to take LDN and is seeing further remission of her psoriasis.
Guttate psoriasis is a rarer form of psoriasis that causes small reddish spots on the skin. In another study, a 75 year old male patient was successfully treated with LDN for his guttate psoriasis. As is common in almost every study with LDN, no adverse effects were reported. LDN is a promising treatment for psoriasis because it is both clinically effective and cost-effective. The cost of regular laser treatments or other prescription medications and be significant and need to be repeated indefinitely.
This rare type of lichen planus affects the scalp and causes hair loss, itching, and burning. Most patients who develop this condition are young women and although it is thought to be an autoimmune condition the exact cause is not known. Lichen planopilaris is another type of inflammatory condition affecting the skin that has been successfully treated with low dose naltrexone. In a review of four cases where patients with lichen planopilaris were treated with LDN, all four showed improvement in symptoms and no adverse effects were reported.
Systemic sclerosis is another condition with no established cause that is thought to be an autoimmune condition. This condition causes the skin to thicken as excessive collagen accumulates. The systemic type of sclerosis can affect other parts of the body besides the skin including the kidney and heart. The effects on the skin include thickening, redness, and pruritus. The pruritus associated with systemic sclerosis is difficult to treat. However, preliminary studies have shown that LDN may be effective at treating pruritus associated with this condition.
Benefits of LDN for Skin Conditions
Many skin conditions can only be treated with expensive medical procedures or commercially available medications. For skin conditions that require regular treatment, these can be cost-prohibitive for some individuals. LDN is an affordable alternative that may help patients get clearer skin without needing to break their budget.
Another benefit of LDN over other treatments is that it is non-toxic and few, if any, adverse events have been reported in studies. The majority of patients tolerate daily LDN well. The dose that is FDA-approved is around 50mg daily for managing opiate addiction. The dose of LDN used for managing dermatological conditions is only 1.5-4.5mg daily. The safety and efficacy of the 50mg dose needed to be proved before the commercial medication obtained FDA approval. That is why many doctors feel confident prescribing a much lower dose of the same medication.
As new research emerges on using LDN to treat skin diseases, its use will only continue to expand. It is likely that LDN will continue to only be available from compounding pharmacies, who will be challenged to meet the new demand for this remarkable drug.
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology – Low-Dose Naltrexone Treatment of Familial Benign Pemphigus (Hailey-Hailey Disease). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28768314
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology – Treatment of psoriasis vulgaris using low-dose naltrexone. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143714/
International Journal of Pharmacy Compounding – Compounded Low-dose Naltrexone for the Treatment of Guttate Psoriasis: A Case Report. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30021181
Journal of Drugs in Dermatology – Novel Treatment Using Low-Dose Naltrexone for Lichen Planopilaris. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29141063
International Journal of Rheumatology – Low-Dose Naltrexone for Pruritus in Systemic Sclerosis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3171757/