Naltrexone is a drug developed initially to treat addiction to opiate-based drugs, such as heroin or morphine. It belongs to a class of medications called opiate antagonists.
When given at a much lower dose, it’s known as low-dose naltrexone (LDN) and has been used in the US to help with autoimmune conditions including multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1985. More recently, it’s been used in the UK and Europe.
How does naltrexone work?
Naltrexone is thought to work by inhibiting the body’s natural painkillers, called endorphins, which makes the body produce even more. People then feel an increased sense of wellbeing and reduced pain. The increased endorphins then act with the receptors to help regulate cell growth and immunity.
Can I get LDN for MS?
LDN can be prescribed for MS, but it is ‘off-label’, which means it is not what it is licensed for. This makes a lot of doctors unwilling to prescribe it. It is also known to help with symptoms of conditions like Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Studies that have looked into treating MS with LDN have had mixed results, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that it improves symptoms like pain, spasticity, fatigue and depression.
Can I get LDN in the UK?
It’s tricky – most GPs will not prescribe LDN for MS because the National Institute of Health & Care Excellence (NICE) does not widely recommend it for this condition. However, some people pay privately to access it.
If you are unable to obtain an NHS prescription from your GP, your GP may be willing to write you a private prescription but will make a charge. You could also get in touch with a private specialist practice or one of the online GP services. You will be likely to be asked to provide them with a letter from your GP or neurologist confirming that you have MS, a summary of your medical history, including any other conditions you live with, and any existing medication you take.
The LDN Research Trust has a lot of helpful information on getting a prescription, and a list of practitioners who will prescribe the drug. Visit their website here ldnresearchtrust.org/
For more information about LDN you can download MS-UK’s LDN Choices booklet free
Download LDN choices booklet