Naltrexone is, to date, not licensed as a treatment for autoimmune conditions. This means that further research is needed to confirm its efficacy for these conditions. Until this is completed, the medical community will regard LDN as an experimental treatment.
Originally, Naltrexone was an FDA-approved drug, used to help alcoholics and drug addicts free themselves from their addiction. STTM explain that it worked by raising their serotonin levels so that they didn’t miss the alcohol or drugs they were trying to break free from, thus helping withdrawal symptoms, usually at a dose of 50mg per day.
Soon after its creation, Harvard-educated physician Dr. Bernard Bihari, discovered that a low dose of Naltrexone raised endorphin levels and helped the immune system to act more correctly. We already know that with Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues, thus functioning incorrectly.
LDN refers to daily dosages of naltrexone that are approximately 1/10th of the typical dosage.
You can see an interview with Dr. Bihari about his discovery, here.
Due to Hashimoto’s being an autoimmune disease, it can therefore be beneficial for those with the condition, by reducing their high antibodies, stopping the progression of the autoimmune disease or even reversing the disease. Besides improving endorphin production, LDN can also help reduce inflammation and encourage healing.
Thyroid Pharmacist Izabella Wentz conducted a survey among thyroid patients in May 2015, which found that 38% of those who tried LDN reported feeling better, with 48% reporting reduced thyroid antibodies, 61% an improvement in mood, 66% having more energy and 40% saw a reduction in pain.
Some Hashimoto’s patients find that when they start using LDN, they may need to decrease their thyroid medication slightly. A usual starting dose is around 1.5mg a day for several weeks before slowly raising to 4.5 mg, taken before bedtime. However, some people may need less. You can get LDN by prescription from your doctor, which is most preferable, or via a compounding pharmacy. STTM have a link on their website that explains how you can make your own.The decision to use LDN must not be taken lightly, and you must know what you’re doing. Obviously using it with an experienced doctor or functional practitioner is most preferable.
The LDN Research Trust is a non-profit organization whose aim is to enhance awareness of Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN), and the promotion and funding of research and clinical trials of LDN as a treatment for Multiple Sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. They have video interviews conducted by Linda Elsegood of the LDN Research Trust with people with many different autoimmune conditions: LDN Research Trust Videos (There are also interviews here with doctors who prescribe LDN.) LDN Research Trust also provides a list of LDN Prescribing Doctors and LDN Pharmacists around the world.
If you would like to learn more about using LDN, there’s a Facebook group you may find helpful, called: Got Endorphins.
Some patients report they have very vivid dreaming when they start LDN, but this usually goes away. You could opt to take your LDN in the morning instead of night time if this is causing you issues. Work with your doctor/functional practitioner.
Advantages to using LDN include reportedly good results from Hashimoto’s patients, minor side effects, a low cost and has no known potential to become addictive.
A quote from someone in my Facebook support group, on LDN:
I can’t rave about LDN enough. Although sometimes people take too much the first time and get freaked out by the insomnia that can happen the first few nights. I had a lottttt of sleep disturbance the first few nights, but on the plus side, I was floating on a cloud of endorphins. I was deliriously happy. By the 4th night I slept extremely well, and the euphoria went away too. I sleep extremely well every night…had 9 hours sleep last night. I was very good and went to bed early – for me.
Disadvantages include there not being much clinical research conducted to date, so long term use and side effects aren’t well known yet, FertilityCare.net (now known as NeoFertility) used to state on their website that anyone with liver or kidney issues can not use LDN, nor can anyone on immunosuppressive drugs such as steroids, methotrexate or interferon.
I haven’t used LDN myself, so can’t give a personal experience, but the resources are here for you to explore and decide if it’s something you want to try.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given, but more reading and references can also be found at:
Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
Rachel is a Thyroid Patient Advocate and Expert with Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites 2018, and is a qualified Diet and Nutritional Advisor, also currently studying for relevant qualifications and certificates in Life Coaching, Motivational Speaking, Reflexology and more. She has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Dr. Hedberg, Thyroid UK and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well recognised as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community.