Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that damages the nerve cells. As it progresses, symptoms can get in the way of daily life and impair movement, speech, and other bodily functions. There is no cure, but there are treatments people can use to manage the symptoms and slow down the disease progression.
Doctors may suggest using naltrexone to treat MS.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved naltrexone for treating alcohol dependence and preventing a relapse from opioid dependence. The drug prevents people from feeling the high they associate with these substances.
In lower doses, doctors are also using naltrexone to treat a variety of conditions, including MS.
Using naltrexone to treat MS is considered off-label use. This means that though it may be effective, researchers have not thoroughly studied its effectiveness, and the FDA have not approved it for treating MS.
Low-dose naltrexone causes the body to release endorphins over an extended period. Endorphins are hormones that the body usually releases during stress or pain. They interact with the opiate receptors in the brain, which helps reduce the feelings of pain.
However, clinical evidence is lacking, and what does exist appears to point out that naltrexone may not do much for people living with MS.
For example, a study published in 2017 looked at whether people taking naltrexone for MS reduced their use of other medications. This would suggest that naltrexone was working. However, the study found that few people reduced their use of other medications.
Researchers found similar results in another study. They collected 10 years of clinical data and lab reports specifically looking at people who used naltrexone. They found that naltrexone is generally safe but likely does not have a significant effect on treating MS symptoms.
Low-dose naltrexone appears to be generally safe for people with MS. Research has not shown serious side effects. And though evidence may be lacking to suggest it will help greatly, there is also no evidence that suggests naltrexone is dangerous.
However, a person taking naltrexone should know about potential side effects that this article highlights below.
Headaches, fatigue, and dizziness can be side effects of naltrexone.
Warnings, side effects, and risks for naltrexone apply to higher doses. Lower doses may be safer, but this is not a guarantee.
As with any medication, there are certain risks that people associate with the full dose of naltrexone. One of the primary risks is the potential for long-lasting liver damage.
Naltrexone can also lead to the development of thrombocytopenia. Thrombocytopenia is a condition that causes uncontrollable bleeding or increased bruising.
Common side effects of full-dose naltrexone include:
A person should not take naltrexone without a doctor's recommendation if they are:taking opioid medications in acute opiate withdrawal in an opioid maintenance program dealing with liver problems
Finally, people should not take medications without first discussing them with a doctor.
People should also avoid splitting higher dose pills on their own. Instead, they should talk to their doctor about getting a prescription for a lower dose of naltrexone.
People should discuss using naltrexone with their doctor before trying to use it on their own.