Naltrexone was approved by the FDA in 1984 for the purpose of helping heroin or opium addicts, by blocking the effect of such drugs. By blocking opioid receptors, naltrexone also blocks the reception of the opioid hormones that our brain and adrenal glands produce: beta-endorphin and metenkephalin. Many body tissues have receptors for these endorphins and enkephalins, including virtually every cell of the body’s immune system.
In 1985, Bernard Bihari, discovered the effects of a much smaller dose of naltrexone on the body’s immune system. He found that this low dose, taken at bedtime, was able to enhance a patient’s response to HIV infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
In the mid-1990’s, Dr. Bihari found that patients in his practice with cancer (such as lymphoma or pancreatic cancer) could benefit, in some cases dramatically, from LDN. In addition, people who had an autoimmune disease often showed prompt control of disease activity while taking LDN.
Up to the present time, the question of “What controls the immune system?” has not been present in the curricula of medical colleges and the issue has not formed a part of the received wisdom of practicing physicians. A body of research over the past two decades has pointed repeatedly to one’s own endorphin secretions (our internal opioids) as playing the central role in the beneficial orchestration of the immune system, and recognition of the facts is growing.
Here is a quote from the November 13, 2003 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine: “Opioid-Induced Immune Modulation: …. Preclinical evidence indicates overwhelmingly that opioids alter the development, differentiation, and function of immune cells, and that both innate and adaptive systems are affected. Bone marrow progenitor cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, immature thymocytes and T cells, and B cells are all involved. The relatively recent identification of opioid-related receptors on immune cells makes it even more likely that opioids have direct effects on the immune system.”
In general, in people with diseases that are partially or largely triggered by a deficiency of endorphins, or are accelerated by a deficiency of endorphins, restoration of the body’s normal production of endorphins is the major therapeutic action of Low Dose Naltrexone.
Dr. Jaquelyn McCandless has found a very positive effect of LDN, in an appropriately reduced dosage and applied as a transdermal cream, in children with autism.
- Roy S, Loh HH. Effects of opioids on the immune system. Neurochem Res 1996;21:1375-1386
- Risdahl JM, Khanna KV, Peterson PK, Molitor TW. Opiates and infection. J Neuroimmunol 1998;83:4-18
- Makman MH. Morphine receptors in immunocytes and neurons. Adv Neuroimmunol 1994;4:69-82
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