If you’re one of the millions of people with auto-immune disease, there may be help for you. It’s a drug with a mouthful of a name—Low-Dosage Naltrexone, or LDN for short.
LDN is best known for its effect on multiple sclerosis. Thousands of people with MS are persuaded that it has halted the disease’s downward progression, and even reversed their symptoms. People with lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis also report benefits.
The good news doesn’t stop here. LDN is affordable—a bit over a dollar a day. Side effects——and many people don’t have them—are mild and short-term. It’s even FDA-approved, sort of. (It has “off-label” approval, meaning the FDA okayed it for a different purpose.)
The story of LDN is an intriguing saga of one man’s pioneering work, followed by a grass-roots, Internet-driven movement.
Naltrexone, without the “low-dosage” part, was developed by Dupont to treat drug addition, and approved in 1984 by the FDA for that purpose. The standard dosage was 50 milligrams, and it didn’t pan out as a treatment. Naltrexone blocks the opiate receptors in the brain. It works, in other words, by taking the fun out of taking opiates. The problem is, it takes the fun out of just about everything else, too. The result: People wouldn’t stay with the program.
Bernard Bihari, a Harvard-trained neurologist, began researching naltrexone and discovered something remarkable. When people took the drug in very low doses (3.0—4.5 milligrams instead of the standard 50 mg. dosage), it appeared to have a dramatic effect on auto-immune diseases. Bihari hypothesized that this essentially homeopathic dosage caused the body to manufacture more endorphins, which are centrally involved in supporting and regulating the immune system. He also came to believe it helped fight cancer and HIV.
Over the past 15 years or so, many thousands of people have taken LDN, to positive effect. The “anecdotal” evidence, so-called because it’s derived from stories, not studies, is overwhelmingly positive. It is also hugely persuasive, if you’re not the sort of person (your typical doctor, for instance) who requires clinical trials to be persuaded.
Where has the medical establishment been during this explosion of grassroots interest? Until recently, unmotivated and indifferent. Because the patent has expired and the drug is so inexpensive, there’s little money to be made from LDN, and therefore little reason to conduct clinical trials.
This can make it difficult to get a prescription for LDN. Because it hasn’t been clinically proven to be an effective auto-immune disease treatment, many doctors won’t prescribe it.
Recently, the medical establishment has started turning its attention to LDN, for a very simple reason: The anecdotal evidence is that overwhelming. Three national conferences on LDN have been held, and clinical trials have been launched in the United States and elsewhere. The first study to report results came out of Penn State University: “LDN therapy appears effective and safe in subjects with active Crohn’s disease.”
If you’re interested in learning more about LDN, a wealth of information is available at
As for whether or not to try LDN, at the end of the day, there’s only one person who knows what’s right for you. And that’s you.
Carl Frankel is a journalist and author who has been writing about green business, green products, and integral living for the past 20 years.