Low dose naltrexone has been found to be a viable alternative treatment for a variety of immune-related conditions including fibromyalgia and chronic inflammatory response syndrome. Every month, a new case report or study is published that shows positive results with the use of this drug. The most recent trial was conducted on patients suffering from Gulf War Illness (GWI). GWI refers to a collection of symptoms shared by Gulf War veterans.
What is LDN?
Naltrexone is a safe, non-toxic drug that was initially used to help those suffering from addictions to opioids and alcohol. At lower doses it exhibits different effects related to inflammation and the immune system. LDN is almost always prescribed to be taken before bed due to the body’s hormonal fluctuations at night. The dose that was approved by the FDA was up to 50mg per day for treating addiction, but for other conditions it has been found to be effective in doses of 1.5-4.5mg per day.
Since the dose used for delivering a low dose of naltrexone is not available commercially, the 1.5mg-4.5mg doses must be made by a compounding pharmacy. It is not likely at this point that a company will go through the process of obtaining FDA approval for a specific low dose.
What is Gulf War Illness?
Gulf War Illness symptoms include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, respiratory disorders, and problems with memory. The pattern of this multi-symptom illness has been found in as many as 30% of the hundreds of thousands of veterans of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, which occurred from 1990-91. There has not been one exact cause identified, but instead numerous possible causes including certain medications and vaccines given to soldiers, the use of pesticides, microwave technology, and many more.
LDN for Treating Gulf War Illness
The double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted by researchers at East Carolina University. It included 37 patients diagnosed with Gulf War Illness, all of whom had upper airway inflammation. The dose given was 4.5mg per day, which is a standard dose for low dose naltrexone. The Clinical Global Impressions Scale (CGIS) was used to measure improvement in symptoms.
Overall, 38% of the patients treated with LDN reported improvement in their symptoms based on the CGIS results. Other scales that were used showed improvements in depression, confusion, and vertigo. In addition, some of the participants and their spouses felt that treatment with LDN should be continued after the study. The researchers concluded that low dose naltrexone “may be effective for some with GWI. Further study and consideration of other doses is needed.”
Like many recent clinical trials with low dose naltrexone, further research is needed to develop more conclusive evidence. It is only recently that the potential for LDN to treat many conditions has be considered. As the research continues, the hope is that more conclusive evidence will develop that will allow a greater number of physicians to feel confident prescribing it for their patients.
- Double-blinded placebo-controlled cross-over pilot trial of naltrexone to treat Gulf War Illness – Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior