Naltrexone For Weight Loss And Other Uses Of LDN

Last Updated: September 6, 2021

Authored by Olivier George, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) is a medicine that is used to help obese patients lose weight. The medication can also treat severe symptoms of fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn’s disease. Originally approved for the treatment of opioid addiction, it can also be combined with bupropion as a weight-loss drug. LDN is an opioid receptor antagonist while bupropion is a dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Naltrexone uses vary – from weight loss to chronic pain management. The idea of Naltrexone for weight loss has been around for years, however, is there any concrete research to back that claim? What are some of the uses of Naltrexone, and most importantly, how does it cause weight loss? This article will discuss all this and more.

Naltrexone Uses

Naltrexone was approved in 1984 by the FDA to help narcotic drug addicts stay off narcotics. It works by serving as an opioid receptor antagonist, thus preventing users from feeling the euphoric effects of the narcotic substance. Naltrexone uses are popular and well-documented. For instance, Naltrexone for weight loss has yielded some positive results, though the exact nature of the weight loss is yet to be determined. The medicine can also help alcoholics abstain from drinking, though it does not cure addiction. The drug is used as an elaborate addiction management and treatment plan which includes counseling and other sessions. The medicine can also be used off-label for treating trichotillomania. It is also effective in the treatment of chronic pains like fibromyalgia. The drug can also cure autoimmune diseases and treat anxiety and depression. The medicine does not cause dependence or give euphoric feelings as narcotics do.

Naltrexone For Weight Loss

As earlier mentioned, Naltrexone for weight loss has been tested with varying conclusions. The medicine helps people lose weight by reducing the desire for food. Studies indicate that it can also be combined with other medications for a stronger effect. The combination of the drug with bupropion has been demonstrated to effectively treat obesity in patients. Bupropion, an antidepressant, induces weight loss through the suppression of appetite. However, the patient will require lifestyle and dietary changes – the drugs alone can’t do the trick.

How LDN Causes Weight Loss

Since the primary function of the medication is to help narcotic and alcohol dependents, the exact nature of how the medicine causes weight loss is yet to be determined. However, several theories exist as to how LDN diet pills work to cut weight. Below are the various propositions on how LDN causes loss of weight.

Suppressed Appetite

Some patients experience reduced appetite as a side effect while taking the medicine, also known by the brand name Vivitrol. Therefore, according to this theory, the Vivitrol weight loss effect stems from the reduction of food intake because of the reduced appetite. This is because LDN blocks hunger signals to the brain, thus the body does not feel the need for food. Eventually, the suppressed appetite becomes a habit and forces the user to make dietary changes. A study found that an increase of Vivitrol dosage from 25 mg to 200 mg resulted in a reduction of food intake by 30% in obese men participated in the study.

Reduced Insulin Resistance

Research has proven that the drug helps to lower insulin levels by 40%, and the link between insulin levels and obesity is quite straightforward. Insulin resistance is one of the primary causes of increased mass in people, especially in hypothyroid patients. LDN for weight loss works by modulating cellular resistance to insulin.

Energy Boost

As many patients report that the drug increases their energy during the day, the enhanced physical activity is a potential outcome of such an impact. As a result, users may burn extra calories losing a few pounds.

Improved Sleep Patterns

Lack of adequate sleep causes inflammation and leads to an increase in body fat in people according to numerous studies. LDN has been proven to improve sleep quality in patients with sleep apnea, as well as some pain syndromes. In this way, LDN helps to lose weight.

Increase In Growth Hormones

Research has suggested that the medication may increase growth hormones in certain patients. Therefore, low-dose Naltrexone for weight loss works in these patients because the stimulated growth hormones help not only build and maintain lean muscle mass but also increases the burning of fat.

Increased The Thyroid Hormonal Levels

Vivitrol for weight loss can help increase total triiodothyronine (TT3) levels and improve the conversion of total thyroxine (TT4) to total triiodothyronine (TT3). Furthermore, LDN has been shown to improve the immune system and reduce autoantibodies in some autoimmune conditions. These two reasons are why low-dose naltrexone is used for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. LDN helps in weight loss in this case because thyroidal gland destruction combined with autoantibodies results in increased mass in people.

Outcome Of Concomitant Side Effects

Vivitrol use is accompanied by some side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. In these cases, patients don’t find any food attractive and are unable to enjoy it. If these effects are frequent and severe enough, the loss of body mass can be observed. The amount of body mass a patient loses while taking the drug is also subject to some individual factors such as genetics, body size, exercise, and dietary intake. Body size, including the composition of muscle and the amount of fat, is the first determining factor in this case.

How LDN Causes Weight Loss

Naltrexone For Pain

Using Low-Dose Naltrexone for pain is quite common. Limited studies have found it to have a positive impact on symptom severity in several pain disorders. However, its use in pain management is still considered experimental. LDN works by blocking the MU receptor in the brain which is responsible for descending pain. Doctors don’t only use Low-Dose Naltrexone for pain management but have discovered that the drug also helps to get rid of fatigue, improve sleep, and physical function.

 

Naltrexone For Fibromyalgia

Studies conducted by Stanford University show that low doses of the drug are highly effective in the treatment of multiple fibromyalgia symptoms, ranging from pain to fatigue. It was discovered that 4.5mg per day of the medication significantly reduced pain in its users as compared to those who used a placebo. It works by reducing inflammation in chemicals in the brain known as cytokines which sensitize pain-causing tissues. However, Naltrexone for fibromyalgia treatment has only been tested in short-term studies. The long-term safety of Naltrexone for fibromyalgia is unknown.

Chronic pain

LDN for chronic pain treatment is another application of the drug. As with fibromyalgia, the studies on its safety and efficacy are limited, but it does seem to address chronic pain caused by inflammation well. The danger here is that the use of Naltrexone for chronic pain may be employed without knowing the cause of the pain, and that leaves the door open for potential interactions.

Nerve pain

The use of LDN for peripheral neuropathy is different from its use in treating other pain conditions. This is because it has been found not just to treat the pain, but potentially reverse the nerve damage causing it. LDN for nerve pain can be used in those with nerve damage from accidents, diabetes, and other medical conditions.

Arthritis

LDN for rheumatoid arthritis is quite common. However, it is currently being assessed on its effectiveness in the treatment of varying types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis. For now, doctors mostly stick to LDN for rheumatoid arthritis, waiting to see if it is effective in the treatment of other forms of the disease.

Naltrexone For Alcohol Cravings

Naltrexone for alcohol use disorder has been more widely studied in drug abuse than alcohol abuse. However, research has shown that when Vivitrol is used in patients suffering from alcohol addiction, it significantly outperforms placebos. It is most effective in users who continue to drink lightly at the start of their therapy rather than attempting to immediately stop using completely. It also performs best on those with significant cravings. So for now, Naltrexone for alcohol abuse treatment has FDA approval. That’s why most doctors can prescribe it if needed. The relapse rate for users taking Vivitrol is just 21 percent.

Note that using Naltrexone for alcohol consumption doesn’t stop the effects of drinking. Patients may still experience impairment or lack of coordination though, they may not experience the relaxing effects associated with drinking. To get the best results of treatment for alcohol addiction, other therapies are also needed. Still, the medication offers hope to many suffering from addiction. Drugs like Naltrexone and other alternatives help in treating alcohol abuse disorder by working in the brain to help users quit drinking.

LDN Helps Patients Battle Addiction In The Following Way:

  • LDN is absorbed by the liver into the body
  • It then blocks the body’s receptors which produce the euphoric feelings
  • Patients do not feel “high” anymore
  • Cravings for alcohol is then greatly reduced
  • Eventually, patients stop taking alcohol

Hence, The fact that Vivitrol belongs to the class of drugs known as opiate antagonists determines how Naltrexone works. This means that it blocks the effects of any substance that acts on the opioid receptors in the body. While not considered an opiate or narcotic, alcohol also requires opioid receptors to induce the euphoric feelings that drive alcoholism. The use of Naltrexone for alcohol abuse can last several months to many years. Some people may even take Naltrexone for alcohol use disorder for life. What treatment looks like will vary from patient to patient.

Naltrexone Sinclair Method

There are various techniques and approaches for treating alcohol addiction, and one of them is the Sinclair Method with Vivitrol. Once considered non-standard, it is growing in popularity. With the Sinclair Method, the Naltrexone dose is taken not at the start of the day but specifically before consuming alcohol. Users should take this dose one hour before they plan to drink. Dr. Sinclair, who created the method, claims that users who engage in the Naltrexone alcohol Sinclair Method see an 80% percent success rate, compared to the typical 20 percent success rate for other methods. However, studies have not independently verified this claim.

Still, many rehab centers are turning to the Naltrexone Sinclair Method because they believe they have seen it work better than other dosing options. Users considering Vivitrol treatment should discuss the possibility of the Sinclair Method with their doctor.

LDN For Autoimmune Diseases

The use of Naltrexone low-dose therapy for autoimmune conditions came about almost by accident. Dr. Bernard Bihari observed that AIDs patients using Vivitrol for addiction management also saw immune-modulating effects. From there, he and other doctors began to look into LDN as an autoimmune disease treatment. What they found is that low-dose Naltrexone for autoimmune conditions seems to have positive results in clinical tests, though more research is needed.

Cancer

To date, there has been no low-dose Naltrexone for cancer clinical trials. However, there have been case studies where cancer patients have used the drug and seen benefits. There have been notable survival rates especially in the latter stages of cancer. Giving Vivitrol in its low dosage can reduce cell proliferation and block tumorigenesis (formation of a tumor). These indicate that cancer patients who cannot use chemotherapy might benefit from Vivitrol use.

Hashimoto’s Disease

Another application of the medication is in the low-dose Naltrexone therapy for Hashimoto’s. LDN relieves symptoms such as lethargy, fatigue, aches, and chronic pains. While it does not eliminate or mask symptoms of the disease, it does slow down their progression, which minimizes the physical destruction the disease causes over time. However, note that LDN doesn’t treat Hashimoto’s disease. There is no cure for it yet.

LDN For Lyme Disease

LDN has demonstrated some benefits in the management of Lyme disease because it seems to have anti-inflammatory properties. LDN for Lyme disease can be effective in treating symptoms. At the moment, no clinical trials have proven it effective, but doctors still use it for this application.

LDN For Autoimmune Diseases

LDN For Depression And Anxiety

The use of LDN for depression and anxiety treatment is becoming more common. However, there is some controversy here. Limited research indicates that Vivitrol could actually cause depression rather than treat it. Taking low-dose Naltrexone for anxiety may also be problematic, as while it can ease symptoms in some, it can amplify them in others.

However, the medication may help address other aspects of depression and anxiety. For example, Naltrexone for weight loss caused by depression-fueled overeating. However, it should be used in mental health treatment with caution.

The Bottom Line: What To Remember When Taking LDN

Though LDN was primarily manufactured to treat opioid addiction, health professionals have discovered that it can treat other illnesses. It is also effective in inducing weight loss in obese patients on its own or in combination with bupropion. Though it doesn’t treat Hashimoto’s disease, cancer, and Lyme, it is efficient at managing the symptoms. Though LDN has its side effects, they don’t take a toll on the health of the individual. There’s also controversy surrounding the use of LDN for anxiety, so it is best to consult a health professional before administration. While one can find substance treatment by themselves, some facilities can aid as well. For example, drug rehabilitation centers offer full support in terms of physical and mental health.

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Published on: June 7th, 2019

Updated on: September 6th, 2021

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.