According to the CDC, 1 in 13 adults in the U.S. (7.5%) have “long COVID” symptoms, defined as symptoms lasting three or more months after first contracting the virus. As of July 2022, more than 40% of adults in the United States reported having COVID-19 in the past, and nearly one in five of those (19%) reported symptoms of “long COVID.”
Though naltrexone is a medication that is typically used to treat addiction to opioids or alcohol, some preliminary research has suggested that low-dose naltrexone (LDN) may have potential in treating some symptoms of long COVID. If you or a loved one are suffering from symptoms associated with long COVID, you may be interested in exploring low-dose naltrexone as a potential treatment. It is always best to consult with a physician before taking any new medications.
What Is Long COVID?
Most people who get COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms they can treat at home and make a full recovery within a couple of weeks. But some may face long COVID, an ongoing set of health problems—physical and/or mental—that can last for several months.
Post-COVID conditions may not affect everyone the same way. Patients with post-COVID conditions may experience health problems from different types and combinations of symptoms happening over different lengths of time. For some people, post-COVID conditions can last weeks, months, or years after COVID-19 illness and can sometimes result in disability.
Though most patients’ symptoms slowly improve with time, speaking with your healthcare provider about the symptoms you are experiencing post-COVID could help identify new medical conditions.
Some of the most commonly reported post-COVID conditions are:
- Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort (also known as “post-exertional malaise”)
Respiratory and heart symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
- Pins-and-needles feelings
- Change in smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Stomach pain
- Joint or muscle pain
- Changes in menstrual cycles
To date, care for people with long COVID has centered around multidisciplinary rehabilitation, self-care and self-pacing. CDC’s How Right Now campaign provides helpful tools for navigating conversations about the type of support someone with post-COVID conditions may need.
What is Naltrexone?
Intramuscular extended-release naltrexone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat both Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) as a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) option. Naltrexone binds to the endorphin receptors in the body, and blocks the effects and feelings of alcohol. Naltrexone reduces alcohol cravings and the amount of alcohol consumed. After a patient stops drinking, taking naltrexone helps maintain their sobriety.
Naltrexone is not an opioid, is not addictive, and does not cause withdrawal symptoms when usage is stopped. Rather, naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of opioids such as heroin, morphine, and codeine. Naltrexone binds and blocks opioid receptors, and reduces and suppresses opioid cravings. There is no abuse and diversion potential with naltrexone.
Though physicians previously prescribed naltrexone to treat opioid addictions, they now are employing LDN to aid patients with conditions ranging from pain and a dysfunctional immune system, to inflammation, cancer, and mental health issues. Low-dose naltrexone (LDN) has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to treat conditions such as fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Before starting treatment with naltrexone, patients should talk to their practitioner about the following situations:
- Have current liver problems, use illegal drugs, have hemophilia or other bleeding problems, have kidney problems, or have any other medical conditions
- Are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding
- All medications, prescriptions and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplement
- Currently taking any opioid-containing medicines for pain, cough, colds, or diarrhea
- Currently being treated for an OUD or AUD
- Are allergic to naltrexone or any of the ingredients or the liquid used to mix the extended-release naltrexone
How Low-Dose Naltrexone Can Help with COVID-19 Long Haul Symptoms
There is new evidence in support of LDN for patients suffering from long COVID.
Naltrexone is thought to suppress the pro-inflammatory cytokine storm and reduce organ damage in Coronavirus infection. Similarly, a low dose of naltrexone is effective in blocking ERK1/2 phosphorylation as well as disrupting the interaction between ACE2 receptor and receptor-binding domain (RBD) of coronavirus. Therefore, low-dose naltrexone is considered among the treatment options for Covid-19 infection or as an adjuvant therapy with other medications to relieve the long-term symptoms.
In a pilot study among 38 long COVID patients, patients reported improvements in energy, pain, concentration, insomnia, and overall recovery from COVID-19 after two months, according to findings published in July 2022.
Long COVID Treatment at Holistic Healing Heart Center in Los Angeles
When patients’ test results indicate inflammation in the blood vessels or other signs of cardiovascular distress, the Holistic Healing Heart Center can offer preventative measures, where applicable.
As part of the Holistic Healing Heart Center’s comprehensive approach to heart health, we offer multistage testing, treatment, lifestyle management and monitoring for post-COVID patients. We offer EndoPAT testing for diagnosis. Endothelial cells perform a vital role in ensuring the homeostasis of the body (the equilibrium necessary for regular function), regulating inflammation, oxidative stress, and auto-immune disease.
A personalized treatment plan will be offered to patients recovering from COVID-19, using advanced diagnostic tools and innovative treatment protocols, ranging from holistic cardiology, primary care, and functional medicine, to nutrition and physical therapy.
If you have been exposed to Covid and are experiencing vascular inflammatory issues or prolonged symptoms like those described by this article typically suffered by ‘long-haulers’, call HHHC to request a consultation and evaluation by Dr. Cynthia Thaik.