What is LDN? Is It a Viable Treatment for RA?

Low Dose Naltrexone for Rheumatoid Arthritis


What is LDN?

What is LDN and is it a viable treatment for RA? Naltrexone was originally approved by the FDA for treatment of opioid addiction. Scientists have since discovered that very low doses of naltrexone (LDN) can benefit people with autoimmune diseases. Small studies have  shown that LDN can improve pain for patients with fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease. complex regional pain syndrome and multiple sclerosis. New studies are currently in process for treating rheumatoid arthritis with LDN.

What Have Scientists Discovered About How LDN Relieves Pain?

In 2014 an article about low dose naltrexone was published by NIH. The purpose of the article was to review the literature on studies about low dose naltrexone as a treatment for chronic pain caused by inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The authors believed that ” LDN may operate as a novel anti-inflammatory agent in the central nervous system, via action on microglial cells.” (2) Many small studies have proven that LDN is more effective than placebo in treating chronic pain for fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and complex regional pain syndrome.  The authors concluded that there is enough evidence to suggest that LDN is a promising treatment approach for chronic pain conditions thought to involve inflammatory processes. Rheumatoid arthritis is one autoimmune disease that is currently under investigation as a possible candidate for treatment with LDN.

In the current scientific environment, there is renewed interest in viable, low cost treatments for chronic pain that do not have significant side effects and the  possibility of addiction. Early studies on other chronic diseases have identified that LDN reduces pain by modulating “central pain-processing pathways and by down regulating inflammatory pathways.”(2) These facts have led scientists to believe that LDN will probably improve rheumatoid arthritis as well.

There is a current VA study in process that will enroll 60 patients with osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis. The patients will receive LDN for 8 weeks, then a placebo for 8 weeks. This is a randomized, double-blinded cross-over study. This is the first study focusing specifically on arthritis. Results will be published at the conclusion of the study. (6)

Sources for Research and Support on LDN

There are many people with RA who are already taking LDN for rheumatoid arthritis. Some Functional Medicine physicians are trained to prescribe LDN They generally prescribe  it in conjunction with a gut-healing diet protocol because the disease is caused by poor gut health. LDN does not improve RA pain and stiffness for everyone, but some patients have seen remarkable improvement in their disease process.

If you choose, as I have, to try LDN there is a lot of information available on line for support during your LDN trial and for additional research on the pros and cons of taking LDN.

  • You should be aware that there are both advantages and disadvantages to trying LDN.
    • Advantages include: the low cost of the drug, the lack of known side effects and the fact that LDN is approved by the FDA to be used as an off-label drug.
    • Disadvantages include: There is no data available about the long-term effects of taking LDN, LDN is only available through a compounding pharmacy,  most insurances will not pay for LDN and many physicians are reluctant to prescribe it because there is very little data to support it’s use as a treatment for RA.
  • Resources currently available to support you:
    • Dr. Izabella Wentz has written a book about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis ( an autoimmune thyroid condition). She has many patients who have used LDN and she claims that 60% of her patients have benefitted from the drug. Many have put their Hashimoto’s in remission. (7)
    • There is a LDN web site that provides a lot of information about LDN. You can find many studies, names of pharmacies that compound LDN, all of the history of the drug and much more in-depth information.
    • The website, rheumatoidarthritis.net, has a forum you can join that provides you with access to other people who are taking LDN
  • My personal experience
    • I made the decision some time ago that I wanted to try LDN. I did not believe that the current drug treatment for RA would work for me because it took me 20 years to get a RA diagnosis.  Most of the RA drugs work best for people who have just been diagnosed with RA. I was also not willing to risk the side effects of the current drugs.
    • I also have Sjogrens Disease and am hypothyroid.
    • After a lot of research, I found an Integrative Physician who was trained in Functional Medicine. She is located 2.5 hours’ drive from my home but she takes Medicare and is well worth the drive.
    • I have been seeing her for almost a year. She has given me appropriate supplements and we have worked on healing my gut. She just gave me a prescription for LDN.
    • I plan to order my LDN from Scripts because she said many of her LDN patients have had good luck with them. The cost to me will be $45 per month.
    • I will keep you posted as I go through this process.
  • If you decide you decide to try LDN, please let me know how you do. I plan to join the rheumatoidarthritis.net LDN Forum. We can share stories there, on my RA Junction Facebook page or via e-mail at mercenes792@gmail.com.

Be Well,




  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3962576/
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/booming/answers-about-rheumatoid-arthritis-part-1.html
  3. https://www.ldnscience.org/resources/interviews-patients/kayleen-jones-ra
  4. http://www.lowdosenaltrexone.org/
  5. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03008590
  6. Wentz, Isabella,  PharmD,FASCP Hashomoto’s Protpcol, 2017, Harper Collins Publishers
  7. https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/topic/low-dose-naltrexone-3/
  8. https://www.amymyersmd.com/2017/05/low-dose-naltrexone/

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