Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Can Naltrexone Help Symptoms of Sjogren’s?

Low-dose naltrexone may help some autoimmune diseases, but we have seen no studies on its effects on symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome.

Autoimmune diseases can be difficult to treat. In these conditions, the immune system that normally protects the body from invading pathogens gets disoriented and starts to attack bodily tissues. When the targets are tear ducts and salivary glands, the result is the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome. (It’s pronounced SHOW-grenz.) Treatments are often directed at these symptoms, primarily dry eyes and dry mouth. Sometimes people with Sjogren’s are treated with systemic medicines such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) or methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) to calm the immune system.

Looking for Treatments to Ease Symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome:

Q. My wife has Sjogren’s syndrome and some other autoimmune problems. She is currently taking Plaquenil, which worries us because it can cause serious vision problems.

I found a reference to using low-dose naltrexone as an alternative treatment with few side effects. Can you comment on the efficacy of this drug for autoimmune problems? I didn’t find any solid studies, just anecdotal information.

What Is Naltrexone?

A. Naltrexone is an oral form of the opioid antagonist naloxone. At the standard 50 mg dose, it is approved for treating alcoholism and other substance abuse disorders.

Off-label, low-dose naltrexone (1 to 4.5 mg) is being considered for use against chronic pain (Bostick et al, Senior Care Pharmacist, Jan 1, 2019), fibromyalgia (Metyas et al, Current Rheumatology Reviews, 2018) and certain autoimmune conditions (Li et al, International Immunopharmacology, Aug. 2018). It may work in part by binding to opioid receptors on immune system cells.

No Studies on Naltrexone for Symptoms of Sjogren’s:

We haven’t found any studies of low-dose naltrexone for symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome, which causes dry mouth, dry eyes and complications affecting other organs. Researchers need to conduct well-controlled trials to determine if this drug would be helpful.

In the meantime, you and your wife should discuss your concerns with your wife’s doctor. There might be ways to mitigate the risk of side effects from Plaquenil. The doctor may also be willing to supervise a trial of low-dose naltrexone, since there appear to be few adverse effects.

Learn More:

We have written about using low-dose naltrexone for pain and naltrexone at regular doses to treat alcohol abuse disorder.

Rate this article
4.3- 15 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.