Naltrexone is a prescription medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating opiate and alcohol addiction. At a significantly lower dose, naltrexone has also been prescribed off-label to improve the quality of life and sense of well-being of adults with all forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), although this usage is somewhat controversial among doctors. Naltrexone is not suitable for anyone who takes or has recently taken other opiates, or who drinks alcohol regularly. It may not be safe for those with liver problems. It is not suitable for those with an allergy to narcotics.
Naltrexone is a narcotic that works as an opioid receptor antagonist. In other words, it binds to the same sites on cells as opiates do, preventing the opiates from attaching. At full dosage, it blocks or mutes the effects of opiates. It is believed that it works to combat alcohol addiction by modulating the dopaminergic mesolimbic pathway, a part of the brain associated with pleasure. In people with MS, it is theorized that naltrexone may bind with the opioid receptors on immune cells, possibly changing the way the cells function. It may also increase the body’s production of endorphins and other natural chemicals associated with a feeling of well-being.
How do I take it?
During clinical trials for MS, naltrexone has been administered orally at 4.5 milligrams or 5 milligrams, taken every night.
Do not drink alcohol or take other narcotics while on naltrexone.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions exactly when taking naltrexone.
So far, low-dose naltrexone has only been studied in two small pilot trials involving people with different types of MS. The results of one eight-week, 60-person trial indicated that low-dose naltrexone improved quality of life. Participants reported improvements in cognitive function, pain, and overall mental health. In this study, participants were taking various medications for MS at the same time. Data was not complete for all participants.
Another trial lasted six months and involved 40 participants with progressive MS. This study indicated significant improvements in fatigue and depression.
Naltrexone was approved by the FDA as a treatment for opiate addiction in 1984 and as a treatment for alcohol addiction in 1994. MS treatment is an off-label use of the drug, meaning the FDA has not specifically approved it for this purpose.
During the pilot studies mentioned above, where naltrexone was administered at very low doses, a few people experienced urinary tract infections, sleep disturbances, vivid dreams, mild agitation, and abnormal liver test results.
Naltrexone can also cause allergic reactions. Get medical help immediately if you experience difficulty breathing or swelling in the face, throat, eyes, lips, or tongue.
For more information about this treatment, visit:
Naltrexone (Oral Route) — Mayo Clinic
Low-Dose Naltrexone — National Multiple Sclerosis Society