As stated by the Autism Society of America, one in every 54 children are autistic, before ten years this number was one in 125. Now, there are more than 3.5 million people on the spectrum of autism in the United States alone.
To differing levels, according to the age and seriousness of a person’s autism, there are numerous challenging behaviors exhibited by autistic people, such as:
- Aggressiveness and self-harm
- Interactive and speech problems
- Repetitious behaviors and attention deficiencies
- Psychiatric problems like anxiety and depression
- Noise irritability, sleep problems, and mood swings
Lately, there is no regular treatment for autism spectrum disorder, however, there are numerous techniques to help reduce the traits and maximize strengths. Strategies for treatment generally concentrate on profoundly structured and functional applications targeting the autistic person’s particular necessities.
The therapies used include:
- behavioral management
- speech-language therapies
Medicinal treatments involve the FDA-approved drugs for ASD, such as antipsychotics – risperidone and aripiprazole. These manage the signs of irritability. Additional drugs are also given in accordance with the age of the child, such as SSRIs, Stimulants, Tricyclics, Psychoactive medications, and Anti-anxiety.
What is Low-dose Naltrexone (LDN)?
Naltrexone in 1984 was primarily accepted by the FDA for the treatment of opioid addiction. After some duration, it was observed that low-dose naltrexone (LDN)—a dose low enough as 1/10 of naltrexone’s typical dose—proves immune-modulating influences. LDN emerges as a safe drug due to its lower abuse potential and rare side effects. It is economical too because it’s needed in a very small quantity. Investigation on Low-dose Naltrexone further confirmed improvements in many other diseases including cancer, Lyme disease, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, etc. Low-dose Naltrexone has additionally revealed satisfying outcomes in children with autism.
Can Low-dose Naltrexone (LDN) therapeutically benefit autistic people?
LDN has exhibited itself as an efficient pharmacologic intercession for autism. Parents of autistic children were examined through a survey and 75% of them claimed that Low-dose Naltrexone benefited their children “overall” as they saw a notable development in cognition, conversational skills, and socialization. The analysis also revealed additional positive outcomes like a drop in hyperactivity, anxiety, inattention, and aggressiveness in immature children with autism. LDN also seems to be a likely option for dealing with behavioral symptoms that include self-harming activities if traditional therapies don’t work out. Low-dose Naltrexone is defined as a harmless, non-addictive, and low-priced immunomodulating and behavioral treatment approach for autism spectrum disorder.
Role of Endorphins in Autism
Some investigators have proposed that extreme opioid activity in children with autism causes them to engage in repetitive “self-injurious and self-stimulatory” behavioral patterns to excite the pain-induced secretion of endogenous opiates. This theory formed the basis for numerous trials conducted on the opioid antagonist naltrexone. The activity of naltrexone is to inhibit opioid receptors, which produces a rebound effect of enhanced endorphin release, in turn altering the immune response, decreasing cytokines and, lessening inflammation.
In many of these clinical investigations, naltrexone assisted in increasing socialization, pain sensitivity, eye contact, and a reduction in self-injurious and stimulatory responses. Endorphins happen not to be the exclusive neurotransmitters involved in autism, but dopamine and serotonin are also discovered in unusual amounts and are likely to play a role in the condition.
In the 1990s, the application of Low Dose Naltrexone in children with autism spectrum disorder was analyzed with investigators applying a dose between 5mg to 50 mg daily. Multiple researchers remarked more reliable impacts with lower doses.
While not giving the final approval in the treatment of autism, Low-dose Naltrexone has proved to assist relieve some symptoms controlled by endogenous opioids.
Studies and Trials of Naltrexone in Autistic Children
One placebo-controlled, crossover investigation on naltrexone carried out by B K Kolmen et al., estimated the efficiency and safety profile of naltrexone in autistic children:
It was concluded that of the 13 children investigated, 8 got better in more than 2 settings (Home, School, and outpatient laboratory, etc). The outcome of this research was “Naltrexone offers promise as an agent for modest improvement of behavior and social communication in young children with autism”.
Jaquelyn McCandless – MD, made use of compounded LDN in the form of transdermal cream for her private clinical examinations on children with autism. The cream had to be applied to children as they slept. McCandless conducted 8-week research on 15 of her patients with autism, giving 3mg LDN transdermally within 9 to 12 p.m., parents recorded weekly results. The 8 of the 15 produced positive outcomes, with 5 of these 8 declared as pretty remarkable by their parents. Mood regulation, language, cognition, and socialization were the fundamental positive responses stated. 2 of the 18 children reacted better when the dose was decreased from 3mg – 1.5mg. Transient side effects of sleeplessness and earlier waking were claimed. All subjects of the study were on controlled dietary constraints throughout the study. Dr. McCandless reasons that, together with different measures like severe dietary controls and mental relief and support, “As an effective, non-toxic, non-addicting, and inexpensive behavioral and immunomodulating intervention, LDN is joining our biomedical arsenal to help more and more children recover from autism as well as helping anyone with autoimmune diseases and cancer”.