Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by periods of severe mood symptoms. If you have bipolar disorder, you may experience:
Treatment for bipolar disorder usually involves a combination of therapy and medication – you’ll find more information about these below.
Of course, current bipolar disorder treatments may not work for everyone, and some medications have a number of side effects. That’s why researchers keep exploring Potential new drugs to help treat bipolar disorder.
One drug currently being studied is naltrexone, a drug commonly used to treat substance use disorder (SUD). some preliminary research It suggests that low-dose naltrexone (LDN) may help reduce mood episodes.
Below, you can find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about naltrexone for bipolar disorder, including why a lower dose may be beneficial as part of treatment.
Naltrexone is a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid use disorder (OUD).
It works in two main ways: It helps Reduce cravingsIt blocks the endorphin and opiate receptors in your brain.
Simply put, if you drink alcohol or use opioids while taking naltrexone, these substances will not produce the feelings of euphoria that would normally occur.
Some research also supports naltrexone as a treatment for bipolar disorder, although current studies focus mostly on people living with both SUD and bipolar disorder. This is likely because the two conditions occur together so frequently. In fact, between 40% and 70% Of people with bipolar disorder will also have AUD at some point in their lives.
Although both SUD and bipolar disorder are common, only a few studies have explored how treating SUD with naltrexone may affect symptoms of concurrent bipolar disorder.
in the small
big Autonomous cohort study as of 2021 Also explore naltrexone as a treatment. In this type of study, participants report their symptoms before and after a particular treatment. The study authors found that people who took naltrexone to treat either AUD or OUD had a 65% lower diagnosis rate for bipolar disorder than those who did not take naltrexone.
naltrexone is hormonal drugThis means that different doses can affect you differently.
regular dose of naltrexone 50 milligrams (mg) in a day. This dose blocks endorphin and opiate receptors to prevent your brain from releasing too many of these chemicals if you drink alcohol or use other substances.
low dose naltrexone 1 to 5 mg in a day. At this dose, naltrexone boosts levels of endorphins and opioids — not quite as much as alcohol and opioids do. LDN may also reduce inflammation in your brain.
LDN is a file adjuvant therapy. This means that it helps enhance the effects of other medicines, so you will take it with another type of medicine.
Because LDN research is still in its early stages, experts still don’t know exactly why LDN affects the brain in this way. However, the limited studies that exist show fairly consistent effects.
certificate He suggests that changes in your endorphin levels can contribute to episodes of mania and depression. Therefore, LDN may improve symptoms of bipolar disorder because it boosts endorphin levels.
But again, experts have yet to come to any conclusions about how LDN specifically affects bipolar disorder. Studies that explore the use of LDN in other situations may provide some insights into its potential benefits.
For example, people who take LDN to treat chronic diseases often improvement report In concurrent mental health problems – including symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, such as:
guide from One small study 2017 Also supports the benefits of LDN for major depression. The study included 12 participants who experienced recurring depressive symptoms while taking antidepressants.
When the treatment group added 1 mg of naltrexone to their medication regimen for 3 weeks, they noticed a greater improvement in their breakthrough symptoms than the placebo group.
So far, no evidence from large clinical trials supports the benefits of LDN for bipolar disorder — but Research It already indicates that LDN may be promising for treating conditions that do not always respond to conventional therapies, including:
LDN is intended to support conventional treatments, not replace them. It’s important to work with a medical or mental health professional to get treatment for any physical or mental health symptoms you have.
Like any other medicine, naltrexone may cause some unwanted side effects. But LDN appears to pose fewer risks of side effects than regular doses of naltrexone.
naltrexone side effects
A regular dose of 50 mg of naltrexone can cause Side effects Such as:
As you may have noticed, these side effects are very similar to some of the symptoms of mania. This can make it difficult to determine if you are experiencing side effects or a mood episode.
If you notice any of these side effects, contact your doctor immediately. They can provide personalized guidance on managing these symptoms and finding an alternative medication that best suits your needs.
LDN . side effects
LDN tends to cause only mild and infrequent side effects. Headaches and lucid dreams are among the most commonly reported effects.
Furthermore, you may only notice these effects when taking an LDN dose ‘higher’ than 4 to 5 mg. Doses of 3 mg or less usually involve minor, if any, side effects.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved full-dose naltrexone only for the treatment of SUD. LDN has not been approved as a treatment for bipolar disorder due to a lack of research on its potential benefits and side effects.
Therefore, prescription LDN is an off-label use. LDN is still legal with a prescription, but the lack of government approval may make it more difficult to get a prescription — or get coverage from your insurance company. Medicines are often not covered by insurance plans Described for off-label use.
To try LDN, you will need to have your doctor send a prescription to a compound pharmacy. These places grind regular naltrexone tablets into the smaller doses you will need. As of 2018, the cost of each daily dose of LDN . is usually less than 1 dollar.
Regular doses of naltrexone and LDN may help reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder, but they are not mean as standalone treatments.
In short, it is still important to work with a mental health professional to treat bipolar disorder while taking naltrexone. Treatment can depend on your specific symptoms, but your care team may recommend a combination of medications and therapy.
Learn more about finding an affordable treatment for bipolar disorder.
Common medications for bipolar disorder include:
A doctor or psychiatrist can provide more information about bipolar disorder medications.
Types of treatment often used to help manage symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This approach To therapy can help you learn skills for dealing with unhelpful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
- Dialectical behavior therapy: This approach can help you practice your mindfulness and emotional regulation skills.
- Personal and social rhythm therapy: This approach, designed specifically to address the symptoms of bipolar disorder, may reduce the frequency of mood episodes by helping you establish a consistent routine.
- Family-focused therapy: Family therapy can help you address conflict and tension in your relationships with your loved one.
- Psychological Education: Learn more about bipolar disorderincluding your specific triggers and symptoms, can help you better predict and manage mood episodes.
Support groups, which give you a chance to connect with others who have had a similar experience, may also be helpful.
Check out our guide to the best bipolar disorder support groups.
While research on LDN for bipolar disorder remains in the early stages, some emerging evidence suggests that it can help treat symptoms such as fatigue, sleep problems, and feelings of depression.
If you want to try naltrexone, at any dose, a good first step is to ask your prescribing doctor about the possibility of adding it to your treatment plan.
Emily Swim is a freelance health writer and editor specializing in psychology. She received a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MA in Writing from California College of the Arts. In 2021, she was certified by the Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS). You can find more of her work at GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider. find it on Twitter And the LinkedIn.