Low dose naltrexone (LDN) is a medication. Some researchers believe LDN can help with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis.

For this reason, some scientists have looked into the potential efficacy of LDN in treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA occurs due to joint inflammation occurring due to issues with the immune system.

Although there is reason to believe that LDN is a relatively safe drug, there is not much evidence suggesting it is useful for people with RA. Further conclusive research and clinical trials are necessary. However, scientists have developed a wide range of medications to help treat this condition.

This article explores the connection between RA and LDN. After providing some background on this type of arthritis, it discusses the effects that LDN might have on the condition. It also outlines the adverse effects of LDN and other treatment options for RA.

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for RA, visit our dedicated hub.

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Arthritis is a condition that affects a person’s joints. More precisely, scientists define arthritis as inflammation of the joints. The condition can come about abruptly and resolve quickly, which doctors call acute, or develop slowly before gradually worsening over time, which is called chronic.

Arthritis may cause a range of symptoms, including:

RA is a chronic form of arthritis that affects around 0.24% of all people worldwide. The risk of developing RA increases as a person gets older. It is an autoimmune condition, which means that it arises due to an immune system malfunction.

The immune system usually acts to detect and damage harmful pathogens. These might include certain fungi, bacteria, or viruses. However, like any other system in the human body, the immune system does not always function as it should.

In people with RA, the immune system mistakes the healthy cells within the joints for pathogens. It reacts to this by attacking those cells, causing inflammation and damage to a person’s joints.

LDN is a medication that some researchers claim is effective in treating a variety of autoimmune diseases. There is some evidence that LDN may have a positive effect on conditions such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis.

Since RA is also an autoimmune condition, researchers have wondered whether LDN might benefit a person who has this form of arthritis.

For instance, a 2019 study investigated patterns of medication usage in people with RA. The researchers found that, among the individuals who began regularly using LDN, there was a significant reduction in the use of mainstream arthritis medications. These medications include:

However, this study had some limitations. For example, there was no control group, meaning the researchers did not compare people who used LDN with those who did not. Instead, the study compared the use of arthritis medications before and after using LDN.

According to a 2018 review, there has been relatively little research on the efficacy of LDN. This includes its ability to help with a range of health conditions, which may include RA. However, further research is necessary before scientists can be confident of LDN’s full medical potential.

Additionally, it is important to note that naltrexone does not have approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating any conditions other than alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder.

It is currently unclear whether LDN can help people with rheumatoid arthritis. However, research has shown that using LDN can have adverse effects.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) lists some of these as follows:

Naltrexone may also cause liver damage, but this is more common at high doses. The NMSS recommends that a person reports serious side effects to a healthcare professional. These side effects include:

Future research may prove that LDN is a suitable treatment for RA. However, at present, there is no conclusive evidence to support this. Furthermore, there is no evidence that LDN can replace DMARDs to prevent joint damage.

There is currently a range of effective therapies available for RA. As a 2022 review explains, there are several important parts to treating RA. DMARD therapy may involve the use of certain medications, such as methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, or sulfasalazine. These treat the inflammation within a person’s joints that cause other symptoms.

Contrastingly, other medications do not aim to stop the inflammation but help manage RA symptoms. A variety of medications can help with painful joints. A doctor will prescribe medication depending on a person’s medical history and any other medications they are taking to prevent drug interactions.

LDN is a drug that may help with a variety of autoimmune diseases. However, it is not entirely clear whether it can positively impact people with RA. This is because there is a lack of conclusive research on the topic.

Despite this, healthcare professionals already have a good range of RA medications to choose from. A person can speak with a doctor if they think they may have RA or wish to find out more about RA treatment options.