What’s The Difference?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or any kind of healthcare professional. I am a patient using my own experience and research to try and help others by pointing them in the direction of websites that I personally trust based on their reputation.
It is very important that we understand the difference between Naltrexone and LDN or low dose Naltrexone.
Naltrexone comes in 50 mg and 380 mg pills and is known as a drug given to people who are dependent on opiates or alcohol at doses of 50-100 mg a day. This is the use that most doctors are aware of.
Low Dose Naltrexone or LDN is a much lower dose (typically 4.5 mg or less) that has many different uses. Mainly, at this low dose it is excellent for treating chronic pain caused by autoimmune diseases and fibromyalgia. It also helps with things like depression, cancer, and lyme disease just to name a few. For a more complete list of conditions that can be helped see the LDN Research Trust website.
LDN is a safe, non-toxic, and inexpensive drug that helps regulate a dysfunctional immune system.
Where To Get LDN
LDN does require a doctor’s prescription. Convincing your doctor to let you try it may present you with a difficult task if they are not open minded. This is because a lot of doctors are not aware of the off label use of the much lower doses.
My advice is to start by doing a Google search of compound pharmacies in your area and calling them to see if they prepare LDN. I asked for the cost of a 3-month supply at 4.5 mg a day because 4.5 mg is the typical dosage to work up to.
I personally prefer to get LDN in a liquid format rather than capsules. This is because the LDN Research trust recommends starting low and going slow. It is a lot harder and more expensive to have capsules made at several different strengths when the liquid is just put into a syringe to measure the dose and then squeezed into your mouth. My first prescription of capsules cost me $130 for 3 months but now I get liquid it is only $80 for 3 months.
With a little luck, the pharmacist will tell you what doctors are prescribing it so you can give them a call if your own doctor won’t prescribe it. I got lucky and my opthamologist looked it up after I told her about it and said “Well, it looks pretty benign and we’ve tried everything else so why not?” Some rheumatologists are watching studies featuring LDN so they may be a good option as well.
If you can’t find one of your own doctors to prescribe it you may be able to find a prescriber close to you here or use the Telemed system.
How To Take LDN
This might be a bit of an exaggeration but there seem to be as many different ways of taking low dose naltrexone as there are people taking it. Typically you would start at 0.5 mg and slowly increase to 4.5 mg. Since we are all different it takes some experimentation on your part to find your sweet spot.
I personally found that when I moved up to 4.5 mg that it was too much for me and it stopped working so I went back down to 4.0 mg. I also find that occasionally LDN just stops working for me. When that happens I simply skip a dose to “reboot” my system. That works every time.
There is a dosing guide here. Please remember that it is just a guide and you need to find what is right for you and the symptoms you have. Notice that the LDN Research Trust has included some special considerations on this document for patients with certain conditions.
Normally, you take LDN at night time BUT that is also something you can experiment with. Some people find that they get too much energy after they take LDN so taking it at night means they have insomnia. How do you fix that? Simply take it in the morning.
Most people do not experience any real side effects since the dose is so low. I personally experienced some mild headaches when I fist started taking it when I woke up in the mornings that would go away after I had been up for about an hour. In the beginning I found that I slept much better so taking it at night worked really well. Then things changed and I found it gave me insomnia so I now take it in the morning.
The key is to start at a very low dose and slowly increase it. Everyone is different. I can’t say this enough. You have to experiment with the dosage and the time to take it. In this case, more is not better. If your dose is too low then you won’t get maximum benefits. If your dose is too high then you may suffer more side effects and it could just stop working. Some people need to “reboot” by skipping a dose.
A list of side effects can be found here. Please keep in mind that ALL drugs have a list of side effects that can be scary. You have to weigh the benefits against the side effects. A lot of the side effects that your doctor will see are based on the much higher doses given to people who are addicted. Since the dose with LDN is so much lower the side effects are going to be a lot milder. Most people I have talked to or who have posted in several of my different support groups are claiming that they have few or no side effects. Most common are vivid dreams (I haven’t been that lucky) and mild headaches when they first start or if they increase the dose too quickly.
How Does It Work?
This is my interpretation of how LDN works based on videos and reading. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist meaning that it blocks the opioid receptors in our brain and stops opioids from binding to the receptors. In large doses this takes away the effect of opioid use. In low doses however, it blocks the receptors just for a few hours which causes a rebound effect. This rebound effect makes your brain create additional opioids and endorphins. This is why it helps with depression.
The opioids made by your brain are not the same as drugs. They are natural and a good thing. Endorphins help modulate the immune system so unlike a lot of drugs that try to boost the immune system or suppress it to deal with disease LDN tries to make the immune system work the way it is supposed to work. See here for a more scientific explanation. There are some videos that show how it works on this page as well.
LDN Research Trust
First I want to say that I have no affiliation to the LDN Research Trust. I came across their website when I was researching low dose naltrexone and found it to be a very complete and accurate source of information.
This organization is a non-profit research organization that has doctors and pharmacists as well as researchers on their team and they are registered. I trust the information I find on their website. I also belong to their Facebook Group and find it helpful as well. Some people don’t like this group because they are more strict with their rules. This is because they have to follow government regulations unlike other support groups.
They will turn off commenting when people start to present misinformation for example and will remove posts that go to links that are not on their website. They have to make sure that the information posted in the group is accurate. The mods are members of the LDN Research Trust team and have access to the medical professionals so anything they say is accurate. You can’t post links to other sites because they can’t be sure the information is accurate. As we all know, there is a lot of misinformation out there.
Things You Can Find On Their Website
- Guides: There are several PDF guides that give very good information and explanations. I downloaded the Prescriber and Dosing Guides and printed them to take to my doctor to initiate the conversation about trying LDN. These guides have been translated into several different languages.
- Videos: Some videos are presented by doctors and researchers and others by patients. It is worthwhile watching some of these. Follow this link and click on Media in the menu.
- Links To Social Media: In particular this is their Facebook Page. If you go to their Facebook Page there is a button you can click on to go to the group.
How LDN Has Helped Me
I found some relief from the very first dose of LDN. For some it takes time. Before I started LDN my pain levels were quite high and my fatigue was totally overwhelming all of the time. My life consisted of laying on the couch, sleeping, feeling miserable and in constant pain. The only time that varied was when I had to go to the doctor’s or for medical tests. I used to wish that I could go to sleep and just not wake up.
I am far from being cured and still have a long way to go but now I can do a bit of housework as long as I pace myself and before COVID I actually enjoyed going out to socialize now and again. That was something I hadn’t been able to do in years.
That’s all for now! I hope this summary helps. I strongly urge you to spend time on the LDN Research Trust’s website and learn more about low dose Naltrexone. I’m sure glad I did!