Anti-Addiction Drug Naltrexone May Relieve Chronic Pain

Naltrexone, a prescription drug commonly used in treating alcoholism and drug addiction, has been found to be effective in relieving pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia. The journal Pain Medicine reported that researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a small study that showed a low dose of naltrexone reduced symptoms of pain and fatigue by an average of 30 percent. Patients who were given a placebo improved only 2 percent.

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by chronic, widespread pain and a heightened, painful response to gentle touch. Debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness are also major symptoms. This condition is somewhat mysterious, with no known causes or cures.

Many people with chronic pain disorders are treated with highly addictive opioids such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, which can also make people believe that they have more pain than they actually do. If the FDA approves naltrexone as a treatment for fibromyalgia and other pain disorders, the risk of patients becoming addicted to pain medication will greatly lessen.

In Stanford’s study of 10 patients with fibromyalgia, the severity of symptoms was reduced by 32.5 percent with naltrexone, compared with 2.3 percent with a placebo. Taking naltrexone before bed significantly reduced daily pain, highest pain, fatigue, and stress. Six patients were classified as responders, with a 30 percent greater reduction of symptoms.

Lead investigator Sean Mackey, chief of the pain management division at Stanford University School of Medicine, noted in a university-issued statement that “Patients’ reactions were really quite profound…Some people decided to come off other medications. Some people went back to work, really improving their quality of life.”

It’s too early to recommend naltrexone for those with chronic pain conditions, as the results are still preliminary. The study team will conduct a second, longer-term trial of 30 patients over a 16-week period.

This discovery is extremely promising for people with chronic pain, as it is a non-addictive alternative to highly habit-forming pain medications like Oxycontin and Vicodin. In addition, there are currently very few treatment options available for fibromyalgia patients, and naltrexone is relatively inexpensive at $40 a month. The drug also exhibits limited side effects, the most reported being vivid dreams.

Source: Reuters Health,Addiction drug may relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, April 24, 2009


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The Pain of Addiction

Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.