Low Dose Naltrexone for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that results in patches of dry, itchy skin. This occurs because of an excessive buildup of skin due to overactive growth of skin cells. Even though the patches of skin may look contagious, there is nothing contagious about psoriasis. It is genetically determined whether an individual will develop it but environmental factors often trigger flare-ups. Currently there is no cure for psoriasis and treatment involves managing flare-ups and reducing the extent of psoriasis patches when they do occur. In addition to the effects on the skin, psoriasis is also connected to other health issues like heart problems, diabetes, psoriatic arthritis, and depression. Low dose naltrexone is a promising treatment option for psoriasis that has been demonstrated to be effective for treating other chronic conditions.
Medications Available for Treating Psoriasis
Commercially available medications for treating psoriasis include biologics, systemic medications like methotrexate, and topical creams. Topical creams are one of the most common treatments for psoriasis as they are applied directly to the areas that are affected and have less of a systemic effect. There are a variety of topical medications that can be made into sprays or creams by a compounding pharmacy like zinc pyrithione, clobetasol, cyclosporine, and salicylic acid.
While many patients find relief from their symptoms with a commercially available medication or compounded topical, more severe cases often still do not respond to treatment. For these patients, healthcare practitioners may consider experimenting with a drug like low dose naltrexone (LDN). There have been trials demonstrating that LDN is effective for treating a variety of autoimmune conditions. Although there have been no trials yet for psoriasis and low dose naltrexone, healthcare practitioners still prescribe it due to its safety and evidence of its effectiveness in treating other autoimmune conditions.
What is Low Dose Naltrexone?
Naltrexone is an FDA-approved drug that has been used for many years to assist in the recovery of addiction to opioids. In the 1980s it was discovered that in lower doses naltrexone exhibited different effects. At a dose that is about 1/10th of that which is used to manage opioid withdrawal, naltrexone boosts endorphins and may help autoimmune conditions. In addition to chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, LDN may also have beneficial effects for individuals with psoriasis. As a condition that has no cure and requires lifelong management, psoriasis is ideal for trying a non-toxic drug like LDN.
Is LDN Effective for Treating Psoriasis?
As of yet there are no published clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of LDN in treating psoriasis. The benefits are reported by patients themselves and healthcare practitioners who have decided that the treatment is worth trying. Since LDN was approved by the FDA at a dose of 50mg, most healthcare practitioners will prescribe a lower 0.5mg to 3mg dose with confidence that it is safe. LDN is non-toxic and there are no reported adverse effects, so the potential benefits in helping a chronic condition outweigh the risks. Some patients with psoriasis who have benefited from the treatment have posted video testimonials online, which can be viewed on the LDN Research Trust website.
How is LDN Prescribed?
The most common treatment regimen for LDN is to start at a dose of 0.5mg-1.5mg then move up to 3-4.5mg. Low dose naltrexone should be taken once daily at bedtime unless directed otherwise by a healthcare practitioner. Because psoriasis is a chronic condition with no permanent cure, treatment must be continued indefinitely to maintain its benefits. LDN is a non-toxic medication that is affordable for most patients, which makes it particularly well-suited for long-term treatment of chronic conditions.