Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) is a drug that can provide therapeutic benefits for many chronic conditions. LDN refers to a lower dose of the FDA-approved drug naltrexone – an opioid antagonist used to treat opioid addiction. Opioid antagonists have been shown to improve healing and tissue repair. LDN has both anti-inflammatory and immunological effects and is used by doctors to treat symptoms of inflammation throughout the body. Crohn’s disease has responded well to LDN in clinical trials as its symptoms are mainly caused by inflammation of the intestines.
LDN for Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s is an incurable inflammatory condition of the digestive tract believed to be caused by an overactive immune system. It can vary in severity of symptoms but usually causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, anemia, and weight loss. It can be an uncomfortable, painful condition and any improvement in symptoms can have a great impact on quality of life.
LDN affects endorphin production, which are the body’s naturally occurring opioids that have a critical role in immune system regulation. The drug improves immune system functioning and reduces inflammation through increasing both endorphin production and utilization. The lower dose of naltrexone produces what is known as a “rebound effect” that is not present in higher doses. LDN increases endorphin production then leaves the body within a few hours, allowing the sensitized receptors to utilize the endorphins more efficiently.
Through the beneficial effects it has on endorphins, LDN is able to help reduce the inflammation of the intestines that is the main cause of Crohn’s symptoms. In one study on the effects of LDN treatment on Crohn’s disease, there was both an improvement in self-reported quality of life in 89% of patients and also a remission of symptoms in 67% of patients. Some other studies have shown less dramatic but still positive results. The safety of the medication in all cases has been well established and it is well tolerated by most patients.
LDN Side Effects
Treatment plans for Crohn’s disease traditionally focus on medications for reducing the inflammatory response and dietary changes. Prescription treatments for Crohn’s include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, steroids, and immunomodulators. Anti-inflammatory drugs called 5-aminosalicylates are sometimes used for Crohn’s but they can have side effects like nausea, vomiting, and headaches. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation but also can cause you to have a puffy face and increased facial hair as well as insomnia and night sweats. While these medications can help improve symptoms of the disease, LDN for Crohn’s is unique in that it has almost no reported side effects and is safe for most patients.
Naltrexone is referred to as “LDN” when it is administered at a dose that is about 1/10th of the dosage used for opioid addiction. Dosages are often started lower then raised over time to be around 4.5mg taken daily. At this low dose almost no side effects have been reported. The exact dosage of LDN you need for treating Crohn’s disease will be determined by your doctor working with a compounding pharmacist.
The only way to obtain LDN for Crohn’s is from a compounding pharmacy because the lower dose is considered “off-label.” Many prescription medications are used off-label as their safety and efficacy have been established by doctors from years of clinical use. At Woodland Hills Pharmacy we have been providing LDN for many years to doctors who find it to be an effective and affordable treatment for their patients with difficult chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease.