Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the opioid crisis. However, one of these medications may have a silver lining for MS. This might serve as a treatment for the disease, or it may simply delay the progressive effects. Either way, any progress is important for those suffering from multiple sclerosis. Taking a deeper look at the options will help you see if this medication is a viable new option for you.
Scientists and researchers are finding new treatments for MS more often than ever before. Naltrexone is one such treatment. Studies have conducted research on thousands of patients taking the medication. This medication works as an opiate antagonist. This means it can block the effects of a foreign substance.
Studies have also been conducted with mice, finding that endorphins and enkephalins could influence auto-immune diseases. Like traditional opioids, the nervous system produces a substance termed endogenous opioids. MS patients have lower levels of this substance. The research found that small doses could increase the production of endorphin. While this works great for opioids or alcohol, it also could work as a treatment for multiple sclerosis. A treatment of low-dose naltrexone has helped other medical conditions including ALS and Parkinson’s.
This medication has been credited with improving lives by mitigating negative symptoms. Beyond mice, some physicians have given patients treatment for MS-related pain symptoms. Surprisingly, this treatment has shown effective for fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Another area of improvement includes pain management. By blocking the pain signal to the brain, this medication can help decrease the amount of pain you feel. Some patients also noticed an increase in cognitive function. Relief of these symptoms is reassuring to those struggling with them every day.
However, there are several issues that need to be resolved before this option becomes commercially available. The main issue is potential side effects. Fatigue is a large problem with MS. This medication could help that, although there is a possibility it could disturb sleep. Patients have experienced vivid dreams as well. For some, there is a possibility of opioid withdrawal symptoms. Other side effects include urinary tract infections and an increase in liver enzymes.
Medical professionals warn that caution must be used when using this medication because clinical trials are lacking. Only a few studies have been conducted, so more research is needed. The importance and role of clinical trials should not be underestimated. This is the most effective way to track results and symptoms. In the case of Naltrexone, more replication could allow scientists a better idea of the outcomes in a large population.
Availability of the substance is another potential problem. A complicating fact is that this substance is not commercially available. It must be ordered with a prescription to a special pharmacy. While many of these issues can be mitigated, it will take time, more studies, and regulatory oversight before this drug is widely available.
Other new treatments
While the new results with Naltrexone are encouraging, it is not the only new drug available on the market. Another new treatment known as Ocrevus was recently approved on the market. This medication is a type of drug known as a monoclonal antibody, which are drugs that target a specific type of immune cell. These immune cells are believed to be related to nerve and myelin cell damage. Trials were conducted where patients received dosages through IV every six months. This makes treatment fairly easy and painless.
This drug could slow the progression of the disease. It also allowed patients to maintain motor skills, vision, and other attributes influenced by the nervous system. This allowed patients to have a better quality of life and ultimately better outcomes. However, there are some side effects. This medication should not be taken by those with compromised immune systems. This is because the medication suppresses the immune systems. As a result, patients have experienced symptoms like sore throats, rashes, and infections. Patients with diseases like HIV and hepatitis B are especially vulnerable.
Like any new treatment that comes on the market, this drug holds a lot of promise. Still, much more research is needed on both positive effects and side effects. In fact, this is one of the negatives, as this medication needs to be tested on a larger population. In conjunction with Naltrexone, this medication could mitigate two of MS biggest problems: pain and memory. Beyond those two symptoms, a combination of medications can alleviate multiple symptoms. The only thing to be careful about is chemical interactions. You will want to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how different medications will react with each other.
Alternative ways to help yourself
Beyond medications, there are several other options out there. These alternative options are great to complement new treatments. Vitamin supplements are a popular option. Vitamin D helps people with MS deal with fatigue. Folic acid can also help with fatigue. Vitamin C can assist with the immune system. Some vitamins are also said to help with memory, like B-12 or omega 3 acids. Do research on different supplements online and at a health foods store. This can help you identify the best choices for your symptoms.
Having your strength and physical health gives you a better quality of life. Physical therapy and exercise can keep you moving and help you adjust. For exercise, Tai Chi and yoga are options to strengthen yourself. Avoid any activity that is too strenuous or that will actively hurt your body. While eating a healthy diet is generally good, no foods have been isolated as helpful for MS patients. Some people with MS find that acupuncture helps with pain symptoms. The results of massage therapy and chiropractic adjustments are a little more mixed. They may help, but there is also the possibility of harm. This might be an opportunity to run a quick idea by your doctor on best practices.
Patients are often distracted by the physical manifestations of a disease. With MS, mental and emotional symptoms often coincide with physical symptoms. This disease is challenging as it progresses, but there are several ways to work with your feelings. Therapy can help with the emotional side effects of the disease. Journaling and support groups will allow you to relieve stress and express yourself. Whatever option you decide to use, talk about it with your doctor. This will ensure that you don’t inadvertently harm yourself or waste money on a method that doesn’t work.
The bottom line
There is a lot of hope in getting new treatments for multiple sclerosis. Some of these treatments are coming from medications meant to target other diseases. Naltrexone is one such treatment, but much more research is needed. To mitigate your symptoms, come up with a comprehensive treatment plan with your doctor. If you are new to trying naltrexone or other new drugs, it might take a while to find the best combination or dosages. Don’t be discouraged and keep active notes about how you are feeling. That helps you and your doctor manage your symptoms.
Henderson, W. (2017, July 16). Using Low-Dose Naltrexone as a Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis. Retrieved July 22, 2017, from https://multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com/2017/07/12/low-dose-naltrexone-treatment-multiple-sclerosis/
New MS Drug Approved by FDA. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/news/20170329/new-ms-drug-approved-by-fda#3