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In a small study, low doses of an inexpensive drug called naltrexone, which has already been used for years to treat drug addiction, have proved helpful in reducing pain and fatigue in women with the painful disorder fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic ailment, marked by musculoskeletal pain and sensitivity to the touch.

An instructor in anesthesia and pain medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, and the study co-author Jarred Younger said that physicians have been using this drug off-label for quite a while now.
There are three prescription drugs available on the market to treat fibromyalgia, however they haven’t been helpful for everyone. Some patients didn't respond to any of these drugs.

Younger got the idea to study naltrexone after hearing that some other doctors had success with it and after hearing from some members of fibromyalgia support groups that it had worked for them. While the results of his small study look promising, it's too early to recommend the drug until more research is done.

In the study, 10 women were given a handheld computer and had to enter daily reports of their pain and other symptoms and describe them all on a scale of not bad to worst. The women were taken off their current fibromyalgia medication, then began taking placebo for two weeks. Next they took naltrexone for 8 weeks. They then went through a two-week ''washout" period.

Their symptoms have then been evaluated. The drug reduced symptoms by 30 % in comparison to placebo, which is statistically a significant difference. 30% was an overall result but the drug worked better for some than others. Six out of the 10 were strong respondents, with at least a 50 percent reduction in symptoms, however, the drug did not work for all 10 women and some even did not respond at all.

Naltrexone also seemed to ease certain symptoms more than others like daily pain -- the higher levels of pain, fatigue and stress. One symptom that did not typically improve was "fibro fog," the foggy thinking associated with the disorder, sleep quality, headaches, gastrointestinal problems and sadness.

It is not exactly known how the drug works but there is a possibility that it quiets down a hyperactive immune system.

If the good results seen here bear out in continuing research, naltrexone may be a good alternative for some patients. So far, it had very few side effects, the most typical being vivid dreaming.

In comparison to the higher-priced fibromyalgia drugs available now on the market, Naltrexone could prove as a competitive low-cost option.


From what I have read, it appears that the 10 women in the study served first as the control for two weeks, and then serve as the test subjects for the following 8 weeks while they were on naltrexone. It is not clear, based on this post, if the women had suspected when they were on placebo, or when they had started naltrexone. In the study, low doses of the drug were used. Perhaps higher doses would have produced positive results in more people.