Depression Awareness Month: Low Dose Naltrexone

Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that is FDA-approved to treat alcohol use disorder and opioid dependence. Off-label it is used to treat pruritis (itching) in opioid using/cholestatic/uremic patients.

Naltrexone has been found to have different actions when used in lower doses than originally intended. This difference in activity is due to the nature of the molecule and the different dose-dependent effects of the L- and D- isomers of naltrexone.

Low dose naltrexone has shown to be effective in treating patients with depression. A good candidate for LDN is someone who has tried pharmaceuticals for depression previously, and did not show improvement, or those who want to avoid using typical anti-depressants. LDN can be used in conjunction with herbs, psychotherapy, and CBT.

When depression is caused by inflammation, chronic illness/pain, or autoimmune conditions, or a patient is experiencing cognitive fog, poor memory, lack of focus, LDN can help.

LDN is associated with reducing inflammation in the body (hence why it is also used off label for itching), and regulating dopamine, which can help with all types of depression, especially if the patient has not responded to pharmaceuticals previously.

Amanda Navarro, PharmD Candidate 2023

LDN Research Trust. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https://ldnresearchtrust.org/