Naltrexone, which reverses the effects of opiates like morphine or heroin, is one of the more controversial but poorly studied potential therapies for MS. It is used in clinical practice in people trying to recover from opiate addiction.
How low-dose naltrexone (LDN) works in MS and other immune-mediated diseases, if it does, is the subject of conjecture. But there seems to be overwhelming anecdotal evidence that it prevents relapses and reduces disease progression.1 It may act by reducing cell death in oligodendrocytes (the myelinating cells of the central nervous system). Evidence of its apparent benefit in individual cases has been published on a number of websites, but to date, there are no results from randomized controlled trials, although several are in progress.
LDN seems to be very promising:
Among recent treatment trials:
After two-thirds of patients with Crohn’s Disease went into remission and 89% responded to LDN in a pilot study, researchers at Penn State University studied 40 people with Crohn’s Disease in a RCT. Patients received naltrexone or placebo for 12 weeks; all received naltrexone for another 12 weeks.
LDN MS research is underway as well. One LDN MS treatment RCT at the University of Californiaenrolled80 patients with relapsing-remitting MS. The researchers found significant improvements for LDN over placebo in several mental health quality of life measures.3Another study of short duration (only 17 weeks) enrolled 96 PwMS, however found no difference over placebo in measures of quality of life.4 Much more research is needed. For more information and resources, click here.