May 26, 2008 7:33 am US/Eastern -- wcbs/tv
Drug Addiction Medication May Treat Other DiseasesNEW YORK (CBS) ― Twenty years ago, Ronnie Raymond began losing her balance and strength. But now a medication that's used to treat alcohol and heroine addiction is working to provide relief.
"I was losing my balance dancing, wearing three-inch heels and dancing. And it was weird that I was losing my balance. So that's what gave me the first sign," Ronnie said.
Ronnie has progressive multiple sclerosis. Formerly an avid traveler – she's collected masks from all over the world - the disease left her having to rely on a motorized wheelchair to get around. But there's another characteristic of MS that was almost worse.
"It led to having a lot of physical fatigue. I stopped working about eight years ago for a number of reasons, but one of them was the tiredness and not being able to keep up with what I was expected to do," Ronnie said.
Then about a year ago, Ronnie heard about an underground movement among patients who were using a medication for drug addiction to treat their MS.
"It blocks the receptors in the brain so the heroin abusers cannot get a high if they use the heroin. In subsequent years, it was actually approved for alcoholism," LDN advocate Dr. David Gluck said.
It's called lo-dose naltrexone. At less than a tenth the dose used for drug and alcohol abuse, LDN has some very different effects.
"It increases your endorphine supply, and that in turn strengthens your immune system, from which you get a host of wonderful outcomes, the basic one being that the disease no longer progresses," Dr. Gluck said.
Even though naltrexone has been FDA-approved for almost 25 years, it's only available in 50mg capsules, so LDN users have to get theirs from certain pharmacies that know how to compound the very low dose capsules. Only a few actually verify their work.
"After we are done compounding we send it to a lab to be analyzed to make sure our work is right," Victor Falah from Irmat Pharmacy said.
Patients usually take a capsule at bedtime. The apparent stimulation of the immune system may explain why a few small studies have shown a beneficial effect on a variety of diseases, including Crohn's, MS and Parkinson's. Other pilot studies are looking at whether LDN may work against cancer and HIV/AIDS.
Ronnie's MS stabilized a few years before she started on LDN, but she said it's still done something very important for her.
"No fatigue at all, a lot more mental clarity, I feel alive again. I feel like it's given me back my life," Ronnie said.
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