Different Dose For Different Folks
Marketed under various names, for instance Revia, Depade, and Vivitrol, naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist and is used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence. This FDA-approved drug is no longer under patent and is available in pharmacies in tablet form in 50 mg. strength. At this dose, the drug serves to inhibit the analgesic action of opioids.
There is some proof that a much lower dose of naltrexone, less than 5 mg., acts as an analgesic, but in order to achieve this effect, the medication requires some fine-tuning of its compounds. The use of naltrexone as an analgesic would be considered an off-label use of the medication. There has been some experimental use of low dose naltrexone (LDN) to treat pain in diseases with an immune system association, for instance: fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, and central nervous system conditions.
Now, a team is working toward definitive proof that LDN might reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia, for instance, chronic pain, weakness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and fibro fog. These scientists think that LDN may resolve imbalances in the nervous and immune systems.
While doctors have experimented with treating fibromyalgia patients with LDN for several years, no studies have ever been done to determine how well it works for this condition. In order for the drug to lose its experimental status and become a mainstream drug for this condition, a thorough investigation of the drug must be undertaken.
Studies performed on animals showed that LDN was useful as a treatment for neuropathic pain, or pain incurred by nerve injury. There are also small trials in progress to determine if LDN might be effective in treating chronic pain in people. This most recent study, undertaken by Stanford researchers, concentrates on the specific effects of LDN on fibromyalgia patients.
Scientists aren't sure how LDN works to alleviate pain, but believe the treatment may serve to quiet glial cells in the central nervous system. When glial cells become excited, they create substances that produce pain and sleep disturbances. When glial cells are quiet, they manufacture substances that boost the body's pain-fighting abilities.
The normal doses of naltrexone, from 50-100 mg. serve as an obstacle to the effects of pain-killing opioids. At doses 1 tenth to 1 20th of the normal dose, the drug seems to have the exact opposite effect and works to alleviate pain.