Though many people who contracted Covid were fortunate to overcome the virus and return to everyday life, some people continued to experience health problems that came to be known as “long Covid.” Until recently, there was no known treatment for this constellation of symptoms. Preliminary research now suggests that naltrexone, a medication that treats substance use disorders, may provide relief to some people with long Covid. In the sections that follow, we’ll unpack what long Covid is and dive deeper into these latest findings regarding naltrexone.
What Is Long Covid and Who Is at Risk?
Long Covid or post- Covid-19 syndrome/post- Covid fatigue syndrome is a condition some people can experience more than four weeks after a Covid diagnosis. People with long Covid can have problems for several months or years after getting Covid. Statistics indicate that up to one-third of individuals who contracted Covid suffer from illness more than 12 weeks after getting infected with Covid.
There are many questions about who is at higher risk for long Covid. People at risk include people who need to be hospitalized or require intensive care after diagnosis and those with chronic conditions that affect the organs. Women seem to deal with Covid symptoms longer than men. Older adults also tend to be in the high-risk group. Immunocompromised individuals and those identified as experiencing health disparities, including minorities and individuals living in poverty, also fall into the high-risk category.
Understanding the risk factors for long Covid is complicated. Still, researchers continue seeking answers to the role of pre-existing medical conditions and other physical health issues that may contribute to the syndrome. Children and teens also get long Covid and experience some of the same difficulties as adults.
Mental Health Status as a Risk Factor for Long Covid
It seems evident that individuals who already experience chronic health conditions would be at higher risk for developing long Covid. However, research shows that psychological distress before getting Covid is also a risk factor. People suffering from anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress may be at increased risk of developing long Covid. This information underscores how vital it is to seek help for mental health issues as that may reduce the risk of developing long Covid for some individuals.
Symptoms of Long Covid
Long Covid can consist of a number of possible symptoms, including fatigue, fever, and respiratory issues like labored breathing, cough, and shortness of breath. Individuals suffering from long Covid can also experience dizziness, headache, loss of taste or smell, difficulty thinking (brain fog), digestive issues, heart problems, blood clots, and musculoskeletal pain. In children and teens, myocarditis is a heart condition with symptoms that include arrhythmias, chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Myocarditis can be fatal.
The stress of dealing with Covid can also impact mental health. Research indicates that some people with long Covid can also develop mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.
Progress in Addressing Long Covid
Long Covid can affect several body systems, so healthcare providers must get an accurate diagnosis. The symptoms of long Covid may mimic other medical conditions, so ruling out those conditions so the patient does not undergo unnecessary treatment is essential. Since long Covid affects so many body systems, an individual may need to see specialists in several areas, including cardiology, infectious disease, neurology, psychiatry, and pulmonology.
Due to long Covid being a new condition, individuals with it may have difficulty finding a physician to treat it. Those who live in remote areas or small towns without access to a university-affiliated hospital may not be able to get adequate care because healthcare professionals may be less familiar with experimental treatments.
There is no standard approved treatment for long Covid. However, naltrexone has shown promise in treating long Covid. Naltrexone has been around for some time and has historically been a treatment for opioid and alcohol use disorders.
What Is Naltrexone?
For decades medical providers in the addiction field have treated individuals with alcohol and opioid addictions with naltrexone. An opioid antagonist, it has been around since the 1960s. During the early 1980s, the FDA approved it to treat individuals with opioid addiction. When used for addiction treatment, the medication works by blocking cravings for opioids and alcohol.
Codeine, heroin, morphine, and other opioids can promote euphoria and sedation. Treatment with naltrexone works by binding and blocking the opioid receptors and reduces opioid cravings without being addictive. Naltrexone mutes the effects of alcohol by binding to endorphin receptors. A long-term benefit of naltrexone for persons addicted to alcohol is that it can help them stay sober after they stop drinking.
How Is Naltrexone Being Used to Treat Long Covid?
Naltrexone’s anti-inflammatory properties and pain-relieving ability may make it effective at treating long Covid. The drug has effectively treated inflammatory conditions like fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. While the medication does not work the same for every individual with long Covid, clinical trials have shown remarkable improvements for many people.
Lower Dose Naltrexone
The naltrexone dosage that seems adequate for treating long Covid is much less than what doctors prescribe for individuals with substance use disorders. Current studies show that lower dose naltrexone shows promise for successfully treating long Covid symptoms. For example, the naltrexone dosage for alcohol misuse is 50 mg. per day, compared with the 1- 5 mg. dose (also called low-dose naltrexone) health care providers prescribe for inflammation and pain relief.
Hope Through Research
When dealing with brain fog, Covid patients find it difficult to concentrate. Anecdotal evidence suggests that naltrexone for Covid can bring relief with improvements such as reducing brain fog (which can be debilitating). Researchers in the U.S. and abroad are conducting studies to determine the effectiveness of naltrexone for treating long Covid. Despite vaccines and other treatments, people continue to die and suffer long-term illnesses from Covid. If naltrexone is proven effective based on multiple clinical trials, the impact could be significant for healthcare and for individuals who have suffered years with long Covid.
Help if Long Covid Is Making You Feel Anxious or Depressed
If you or someone you know has developed long Covid, you understand how difficult the stress or worry about getting better can be. The uncertainty about the impact of the condition can cause anxiety and depression. If that describes you, please don’t wait to feel better. Call FHE Health today.