LDN: A Lifesaving Drug
Julian Whitaker, MD
In October 2005, Dee Alejo was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer. She had surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, but the cancer had metastasized to her lungs. In February 2007, she was told she had four to nine months to live. When she contacted a friend to relay the bad news, she was told about an inexpensive, nontoxic drug that was being used to successfully treat cancer.
Dee was anxious to give it a try, but she couldn’t find a doctor who would prescribe it. Desperate, Dee tracked down the physician who discovered this treatment, got a prescription, and began taking it. Today, nearly two years later, Dee is back at work and glowing with health. Although she still has evidence of tumors in her lungs, they appear to be calcifying rather than growing, and she has virtually no symptoms.
Twelve years ago, Vicki Finlayson developed numbness and tingling in her arms and legs. After two years, many tests, and unrelenting pain and fatigue, as well as speech, memory, and balance problems, she was diagnosed with a severe form of multiple sclerosis (MS). For the next eight years, Vicki spent most of her time on the couch or in bed, “depressed and hating life.” She tried one drug after another, from weekly injections and steroid infusions to a lengthy list of narcotics and other medications. Nothing provided much relief, and side effects landed her in the hospital.
In 2005, Vicki’s husband heard about an inexpensive, nontoxic drug that was helping people with MS. Although she was skeptical, Vicki convinced her doctor to write a prescription. Just two days after she started taking it, her pain began to subside and her energy returned, and within six months, all of her symptoms were gone. Today, Vicki takes no other medications, and she’s back to playing golf.
The drug that produced such miraculous results for Dee, Vicki, and tens of thousands of others is low-dose naltrexone (LDN).
LDN therapy is a major breakthrough, but like other innovative treatments, it’s ignored by conventional physicians. It’s the same old song and dance: “If it were any good, I’d know about it.” Yet this safe, economical drug stands to benefit millions—not only those with cancer and MS, but also people dealing with autism, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune diseases.
All About Endorphins
If you ask your doctor about naltrexone, he’ll probably tell you it’s for treating addiction, and he’s right. Naltrexone was approved for facilitating heroin withdrawal more than 20 years ago, and it’s now used for alcoholism as well. So how does such a drug help patients with cancer, MS, and other diseases? It’s all about endorphins.
Endorphins were discovered in the 1970s after scientists found that morphine, heroin, and other opiates relieved pain and enhanced mood by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. They concluded that there must be natural compounds that also bind to these receptors and went on to identify peptides that have effects similar to opiate drugs. They named these peptides endorphins, from the words endogenous (meaning made in the body) and morphine.
The best-known endorphin is beta-endorphin, which is produced in response to physical exercise. Beta-endorphin is believed to be responsible for the “runner’s high” experienced during and after a long run. However, it’s just one of a number of endorphins that are made in the brain and adrenal glands, and they do far more than increase pain tolerance and sense of well-being.
A Momentous Discovery
In the mid-1980s, New York City physician Bernard Bihari, MD, found that patients with AIDS and other serious diseases had significant reductions in levels of circulating endorphins. So, when he came across research showing that very low doses of naltrexone stimulated endorphin production, he began giving his patients with AIDS 1.75-4.5 mg at bedtime.
The results were incredible. The endorphin levels of these patients soared, and they not only felt better, but their viral counts went down, they gained weight, and their health dramatically improved. The effects were so remarkable that Dr. Bihari began using LDN with patients who had other diseases marked by immune system dysfunction, such as cancer and autoimmune disorders, and the results were equally good.
Dr. Bihari had stumbled upon a momentous discovery: Endorphins play a central role in immune function, and LDN enhances the immune response by stimulating endorphin production.
LDN Therapy Boosts Immune Function
It would be several years before the mechanisms were understood, but we now know that when LDN is taken at bedtime, it binds to opioid receptors and temporarily blocks endorphins from attaching. This signals the body to increase endorphin production, an effect that lasts as long as 18 hours.
Opioid receptors aren’t exclusive to the brain. They’re also present on all types of immune cells, including macrophages, natural killer cells, T- and B-cells, and even stem cells. As a result, the flood of endorphins set into motion by LDN stimulates the immune system and enhances the body’s ability to fight disease.
The benefits of this remarkable drug have been proven in a number of scientific studies, several of which were presented at the Fourth Annual LDN conference, recently held on the campus of the University of Southern California School of Medicine.
Cancer, Autoimmune Diseases…
Burt Berkson, MD, discussed the use of LDN for cancer. He gave an update on a case he published two years ago involving a patient with metastatic pancreatic cancer who was treated with LDN and intravenous alpha lipoic acid after failing a course of chemo. The patient continues to do well eight years after his “terminal” diagnosis. Dr. Berkson and others also reported on patients who have successfully used LDN for cancers of the liver, breast, ovary, prostate, lung, and colon, as well as lymphoma and melanoma.
The benefits of LDN for patients with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other autoimmune disorders were addressed as well. Scottish physician Tom Gilhooly, MD, focused on MS—Scotland has the world’s highest rate of the disease—and the excellent outcomes of patients treated with this drug. Dr. Gilhooly is currently involved in a clinical trial on the urological effects of LDN in patients with this condition.
Skip Lenz, PharmD, also talked about LDN’s therapeutic effects in MS. He conducted an informal survey of 185 people, most of them with MS, who are taking LDN and found that 56 percent had improvements in symptoms and 32 percent held steady—amazing results considering the progressive nature of MS and the toxicity of conventional treatments.
Autism and More
Jacquelyn McCandless, MD, discussed her experience with children who have autism. Autism, which now affects one in 150 American kids, is marked by immune dysfunction and is considered by many to be an autoimmune disorder, likely brought on by excessive use of vaccinations. Dr. McCandless stated that after these kids start LDN therapy, the majority of them become more social and exhibit better eye contact and more interaction with others. Their sleep is also improved, and they get fewer colds and other infections.
David Gluck, MD, who chaired the conference and, aside from Dr. Bihari, has done more than anyone to advance the use of LDN, gave an overview of other new research. Highlights included a 2007 study showing that 89 percent of patients with Crohn’s disease had symptomatic improvement with LDN and a 2008 Italian study demonstrating that LDN stopped progression in 39 of 40 patients with an aggressive type of MS. He also reported on continuing research of LDN’s effects on inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s in children, and MS.
Truth be told, we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the therapeutic potential of this drug. Patients and physicians—including those at Whitaker Wellness—get consistently good results with LDN. In addition to the conditions discussed above, it’s also helpful for allergies, Parkinson’s disease, chronic fatigue, leaky gut and other gastrointestinal problems, corneal ulcers, and overall immune support. And Dr. McCandless calls it “the best anti-aging medicine going.”
Ignored by Conventional Doctors…
So we’re back to the same old question: Why don’t conventional physicians prescribe LDN therapy? First, they don’t know about it. Doctors get most of their information from pharmaceutical reps and medical journals, which are essentially drug ads cloaked in the mantle of science. No drug company will ever research or promote LDN. Its patent expired years ago, and it’s inexpensive (about $30 for a month’s supply) so there’s no profit motive. Furthermore, it would compete with newer, far more expensive drugs. Many patients with serious chronic disease spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a month on medications, and some cancer drugs cost more than $100,000 a year! No profit-motivated company is going to derail that gravy train.
Second, naltrexone has been approved by the FDA only for opiate and alcohol dependence. And although the “off-label use” of a drug—prescribing it to treat conditions other than those for which it’s approved—is perfectly legal, almost all doctors are too timid to do it.
Third, most physicians are unwilling to think outside the box. If a patient asks me about a therapy and I’m unfamiliar with it, I’ll check it out and, as long as it’s safe and makes sense, I’ll help the patient give it a try. There’s a wealth of data on LDN on the Internet—just Google LDN and see for yourself. Unfortunately, most physicians are so stuck in their biases that they prefer to just say no.
…Patients Are Spreading the Word
Physicians may not be embracing LDN, but patients certainly are. Vicki, the woman who was nearly crippled with MS, walked 53 miles from her home to the California state capitol building in Sacramento to talk with Gov. Schwarzenegger’s staff about raising awareness of LDN. Dee, the “terminal” cancer patient, has created a Web site to get the word out. (www.ldn4cancer.com)
A couple of patients have written books on LDN that will soon be released. Still others, realizing that well-organized studies are the only way to get the attention of the scientific community, are raising money or using their own resources to fund research (although the current science is more than adequate).
I wish them luck, and I’ll do everything I can to help, but I’m not optimistic. This reminds me of the Dilantin saga. Jack Dreyfus has spent $80 million of his personal fortune trying to get doctors to recognize the extremely beneficial off-label uses of this safe, inexpensive, low-dose drug (sound familiar?) for treating anxiety and depression. Forty years later, it’s still ignored. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies have made billions on antidepressants that are dangerous and mind-numbing.
If you are suffering with any of the conditions discussed in this article, LDN certainly merits a therapeutic trial. Talk to your doctor, present the research and sources of additional information, and if he isn’t open to prescribing LDN, then find a new physician.
- LDN requires a prescription and can only be obtained through compounding pharmacies. (Regular pharmacies typically carry 50 mg capsules.) Good ones include Skip’s Pharmacy, (800) 553-7429, Wellness Pharmacy, (800) 227-2627, and McGuff Pharmacy, (800) 444-1133.
- The optimal dose of LDN is 4.5 mg. Some people have vivid dreams when they first start taking LDN. If this is an issue, start with 1.5–3 mg and build up over a couple of months. LDN should not be taken if you’re on any type of narcotic drug for pain relief—you will have withdrawal symptoms. Talk to your doctor about switching to a non-narcotic painkiller; after three days, LDN may be started.
- We routinely prescribe LDN at Whitaker Wellness. To see a physician here, call (866) 944-8253.
- To learn more, Google LDN and visit Dr. Gluck’s Web site, http://www.lowdosenaltrexone.org/.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Copyright 2008. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.
One-Stop Shop for Wellness and LDN Therapy
Renowned physician, author, and speaker, Julian Whitaker, MD, opened the doors of the Whitaker Wellness Institute in 1979. Since then, our clinic has helped more than 45,000 patients overcome serious health challenges and get back on the road to healthy living. We’re proud to offer nearly two dozen safe, innovative, healing therapies under one roof—that’s more than any other facility in the northern hemisphere. Just think of us as your “one-stop shop for wellness.”
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