(I would like to thank Mohammed Hassoun, Pharm. D., RPh for providing this blog post)
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) has been the subject of much debate due to its potential in benefiting certain disease states including cancers, immune-related diseases and pain. Originally, Naltrexone at doses of 50 to 300 milligrams daily was studied and FDA-approved to help treat both alcohol and opiate (heroin/morphine) dependence. Naltrexone is classified as an opiate antagonist (blocker) and works by preventing opiates from binding and activating their receptors.
The benefits of LDN came about accidentally through Dr. Ian Zolder’s research on kidney cancer, where he noticed that administering low doses of naltrexone stopped tumor growth. These findings encouraged another researcher, Dr. Bernard Bihari, to investigate the effectiveness of LDN in treating AIDS, and the results showed that LDN seemed to help stop the progress of the disease. The pioneering work done by both Zolder and Bihari inspired numerous trials to test LDN effectiveness in diseases ranging from solid tumor cancers to immune-related diseases such as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease, as well as pain management.
The promise that LDN holds for immune-related diseases and cancers is enormous, however the exact mechanism is poorly understood. Some believe that the benefits are due to temporary blockage of endorphins. Endorphins are proteinlike molecules the body releases that give a sense of happiness when people eat ice cream, exercise or have sex. As a result of the blockage, the body is tricked into thinking that it has low levels of endorphins and increases production. The ensuing high level of endorphins is believed to stimulate the immune system and promote T cell production. T cells are part of the body’s natural defense, and the increase is thought to restore the immune balance and significantly reduce disease progress. Additionally, endorphins assist in the reduction of pain, and a study has concluded that LDN reduces pain associated with fibromyalgia, as well as improves mood and general satisfaction with life.
While the mechanism is yet to be determined, Zolder’s research on multiple resistant breast cancer, has shown LDN can stop breast cancer cells from growing by acting on genes involved in the cell cycle and immune system adjustments. Other researchers have shown that LDN improves the killing ability of chemotherapy agents by increasing the sensitivity of cancer cells to these agents. The data being published is consistently proving that LDN has anti-cancer activity and would be beneficial for a lot of cancer types.
LDN has also been studied extensively in immune-related diseases due to the potential for it to balance or restore the immune system. A 2011 Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine study has shown that LDN appears safe and effective in improving Crohn’s disease symptoms. Numerous other trials demonstrate that LDN, dosed between 3 to 4.5 milligrams taken daily, is a promising treatment for many immune-related diseases such as multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis.
The ability of LDN to affect multiple biological systems has researchers exploring its use in many disease states. LDN continues to provide hope for patients diagnosed with diseases that have limited treatment options. The most exciting part about LDN is its apparent ability to slow down many immune related diseases and stop the growth or spread of some tumors. In reality, no one knows how LDN works exactly, but the data that is published continues to reassert the notion that LDN is the gift that keeps on giving.
Mohammed Hassoun, Pharm.D., RPh, is a Pharmacy Compounding Fellow at Johnson Compounding and Wellness, in Waltham, and assistant professor at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University. Low Dose Naltrexone is a custom-compounded medication that requires a doctor to write a prescription.
For questions about LDN stop in to the pharmacy and speak with Mohammed or one of the compounding pharmacists (Johnson Compounding & Wellness 577 Main Street Waltham MA 02452), call 781-893-3870 or visit NaturalCompounder.com.