Does low-dose naltrexone really help Crohn's disease?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Can naltrexone treat Crohn's disease?

Could the inexpensive drug naltrexone help treat Crohn's disease? There are claims that the medication can be a big help to those suffering from CD, but there is also some information anyone battling Crohn's or colitis should know.


If you are diagnosed with Crohn's disease you may have already heard about preliminary studies showing low-dose naltrexone (LDN) might help alleviate Crohn's disease flare-ups.The drug has garnered interest recently because of it's potential widespread benefits for treating a variety of illnesses.

Some chronic diseases suggested that could be helped with LDN include Parkinson's disease, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

What studies suggest about LDN for Crohn's

Findings published this year looked at several studies from MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, and the Cochrane Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Functional Bowel Disorders Review Group Specialized Register to find out if naltrexone should be further explored for controlling Crohn's disease symptoms.

In addition to studies, information from Digestive Disease Week and United European Gastroenterology Week and reference lists from articles were also reviewed. There is also a clinical trial in progress that has not started recruiting.

The study authors found no conclusive evidence that low-dose naltrexone helps control Crohn's disease -either symptomatically or per assessment of clinical activity.

However, one small study suggested otherwise that the authors said should be interpreted with caution because of poor study design.

The research reviewed was from inception to February 2013.

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What is naltrexone?

The drug is an opioid antagonist and it is used to treat addiction to opiates. Prescribers using the medication for other types of treatment would be doing so "off label", which is not uncommon.

The drug would also NEVER be combined with opioids, which many people take for pain associated with Crohn's disease and colitis.

What some Crohn's patients say

Despite the fact that LDN is not proven to help control Crohn's disease, you can do an internet search and find comments from those battling the debilitating disease that it has helped CD sufferers.

Unfortunately, everyone is indeed different and without controlling for other factors, it would be difficult to say naltrexone was the reason for reduced symptoms - which is why long-term, controlled studies are sorely needed.

The take-home message is that naltrexone does seem to show promise for autoimmune diseases, which may include Crohn's disease and more. Some people with IBD say the drug was a life-changer for them. But until clinical trials are completed, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that LDN is effective as a Crohn's disease treatment. What is your opinion? Have you tried naltrexone and have Crohn's disease?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons




I have used NDL for a year and had good results with it- but the doctor I use now does not believe in it and refuses to give a prescription--BTW - I had bowel surgery this week, and am home recovering.
Tobias, thank you for sharing. Wishing you a speedy recovery too!
Tobias, my doctor didn't believe in it for Crohn's so I told my primary doctor that I had alcohol problems and that I wanted it. My primary doctor gave it to me but then you have to watch the dosing to make sure it's low dose so I cut my pills in half.
I had surgery and they removed about 15" from my intestine . I felt good for about a month, and then I came up with tremendous coughing. It seems to be LPR reflux I am on a Fodmap diet- and am doing much better- I am told that the surgery can cause heartburn. I did not yet resume taking LDN