Why do morphine-blocking drugs make you lose weight?

Naloxone (IV) and naltrexone (oral) are drugs that block the action of morphine.

If you were an inner city heroine addict and got knifed during a drug deal, you'd be dragged into the local emergency room. You're high, irrational, and combative. The ER staff restrain you, inject you with naloxone and you are instantly not high. Or, if you overdosed on morphine and stopped breathing, an injection of naloxone would reverse the effect immediately, making you sit bolt upright and wondering what the heck was going on.

So what do morphine-blocking drugs have to do with weight loss?

An odd series of clinical studies conducted over the past 40 years has demonstrated that foods can have opiate-like properties. Opiate blockers, like naloxone, can thereby block appetite. One such study demonstrated 28% reduction in caloric intake after naloxone administration. But opiate blocking drugs don't block desire for all foods, just some.

What food is known to be broken down into opiate-like polypeptides?

Wheat. On digestion in the gastrointestinal tract, wheat gluten is broken down into a collection of polypeptides that are released into the bloodstream. These gluten-derived polypeptides are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain. Their binding to brain cells can be blocked by naloxone or naltrexone administration. These polypeptides have been named exorphins, since they exert morphine-like activity on the brain. While you may not be "high," many people experience a subtle reward, a low-grade pleasure or euphoria.

For the same reasons, 30% of people who stop consuming wheat experience withdrawal, i.e., sadness, mental fog, and fatigue.

Wouldn't you know that the pharmaceutical industry would eventually catch on? Drug company startup, Orexigen, will be making FDA application for its drug, Contrave, a combination of naltrexone and the antidepressant, buproprion. It is billed as a blocker of the "mesolimbic reward system" that enhances weight loss.

Step back a moment and think about this: We are urged by the USDA and other "official" sources of nutritional advice to eat more "healthy whole grains." Such advice creates a nation of obese Americans, many the unwitting victims of the new generation of exorphin-generating, high-yield dwarf mutant wheat. A desperate, obese public now turns to the drug industry to provide drugs that can turn off the addictive behavior of the USDA-endorsed food.

There is no question that wheat has addictive properties. You will soon be able to take a drug to block its effects. That way, the food industry profits, the drug industry profits, and you pay for it all.

Comments (24) -

  • praguestepchild

    11/10/2010 3:49:28 PM |

    A doctor friend of mine was telling me about this, junkies hate it because it makes them instantly sober. Interesting that it would block the same receptors involved in wheat addiction.

  • Anonymous

    11/10/2010 4:29:57 PM |

    Thank you for explaining/exposing this.  For years I've wondered how food addictions work, especially wheat.  That our representative government is serving profit seeking corporate interests no longer surprises me though.

  • Anonymous

    11/10/2010 4:30:30 PM |

    Thesis + antithesis = synthesis.

  • arnoud

    11/10/2010 7:12:13 PM |

    Thank you for these interesting insights.  

    Now I also know why I couldn't just eat one cookie - - had to continue and eat the whole box.

    Now, without that first cookie, I totally don't care about them at all.

  • Anonymous

    11/10/2010 7:32:04 PM |

    BTW, naltrexone is also used to treat alcoholism in protocol known as The Sinclair Method.  You take the naltrexone an hour before drinking and then drink normally.  The naltrexone blocks the opoid receptors in the brain and the endorphins released by the drinking find no room at the inn.  Over time, the addiction is extinguished.

  • terrence

    11/10/2010 7:35:08 PM |

    I do not think I could have made up something like this! If I could I would be very rich, and maybe own a Big Pharma company or two.

    BTW, awhile ago, I read about a clinical study done in the UK. It had three groups of heron addicts - one group stayed on heroin, another was given methadone, the third was given a placebo (that they were told was methadone).

    Not surprisingly, the first group remained addicted to heroin, and the second group remained addicted to Methadone. The third group ALL got over their previous addiction to heroin, and with NO withdrawal symptoms, NONE, not one of them.

    Some commentators pointed out that The Heroin Establishment has a very large financial interest in keeping the story alive that heroin is hard to stop.

    I also know someone who was addicted to heroin. But, he realized that he was messing up his life (lost his wife, kids, etc). So, just stopped taking it - NO withdrawal issues, NONE.

  • Steve Cooksey

    11/10/2010 7:59:52 PM |


    I love it when you rant against the MACHINE!!!  (in a dignified manner of course) Smile

    I'm a Type 2 Diabetic, with normal blood sugar and I take -0- drugs , -0- insulin.

    I follow a Very Low Carb, Gluten Free "Primal" meal plan....and I LOVE IT!

  • Dr. William Davis

    11/10/2010 11:04:21 PM |

    It's not clear to me how much of this is intentional, i.e., is wheat now a ubiquitous component of processed food precisely because of its addictive potential?

    Regardless, wheat stands apart from all other foods for this effect on humans.

  • mrfreddy

    11/11/2010 12:41:41 PM |


    and to think, the Ornishes, Furhmans, and Campbells of the world would have us believe that meat is addictive. Ha!

  • Anonymous

    11/11/2010 2:52:43 PM |

    Naltrexone..really?  Do some research on this drug and you will find that used over a long period of time it will cause changes to the receptors so that we feel no euphoria ever!  Bad Bad news.

  • Chet

    11/11/2010 6:13:47 PM |

    Eating wheat bread by itself is not very addicting but if sugar is thrown in the mix, you can get a nice mood lift.  This is because sugar(along with the wheat) spike insulin which drives tryptophan into the brain, where it converts to serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter.

  • Kevin

    11/11/2010 9:58:03 PM |

    I may experiment.  I have some naltrexone that is about to expire.  I might give myself an injection and see if it makes me less interested in bread.  At the most I might eat two slices of whole wheat once or twice a week.  Would it work for other carbs like potatoes?

  • Dr. William Davis

    11/12/2010 1:32:06 AM |

    HI, Kevin--

    I'm impressed that you've got naltrexone! Please let us know what becomes of the experiment.

    Wheat stands apart for this effect. The only other foods that have been shown to exert a morphine-like effect are dairy products ("caseomorphin"), though the potency is many times less than that exerted by wheat.

  • Anonymous

    11/12/2010 3:09:49 AM |

    I eliminated grains, switched to Almond milk, cut out coffee and all artificial sweeteners.

    I started LDN in June and have easily lost 23 pounds, a feat almost unheard of in a Hashimoto's patient.

    Just a small amount of some protein and veggies will satisfy me but so could a handful of unsalted nuts.
    My appetite is no longer an issue.
    I would say I don't really have an interest in food anymore.
    I no longer have any blood sugar swings but those disappeared when I eliminated grains. I just feel LDN was helping in the appetite area, now your post confirms what I had been feeling.

    Now that my thyroid medication has been switched ( Armour to Synthroid due to manufacturing issues) and adding Cytomel plus LDN, I feel better.

    I am waiting of lab results to see where my Vit. D level is ( was at 42 aiming for 60) and to see what impact 6 months of no grains has done to my cholesterol.
    I am hopeful!  And that's another thing about LDN, depression is a thing of the past.
    My holistic MD thinks because the dosage is so small, LDN is acting in a homeopathic manner.  
    Many Hashimoto's patients have to decrease the amount of hormone they take because of LDN's effect on the thyroid.  
    I should know if my thyroid is happier by the end of the month. It might even be too happy.

  • Anne

    11/12/2010 3:28:40 AM |

    Chet - you say wheat is not addicting. My experience is not proof but when I gave up wheat I had about 3 days of withdrawal symptoms.  I felt really terrible and I was still eating sugar and high carb foods. A few years later I gave up the sugars. Although it took a while to lose the cravings for sweets, I did not have a period of feeling ill like I did when I gave up wheat.  

    Giving up wheat eliminated my depression. The tiniest amount of accidental wheat causes my mood to drop for a few days.

  • Anonymous

    11/12/2010 6:22:05 AM |

    Wrong explanation. By antagonizing opioid receptors, naltrexone disrupts flow in reward circuit. Which we know is central to the development of addiction. Wheat or no wheat. The weight loss appears to be at least in part something else. In combination with buproprion (AKA Zyban, an effective quit smoking drug) it significantly reduces food intake (by blocking hunger signal and reducing cravings). Again, wheat or no wheat.

  • Peter

    11/12/2010 5:40:16 PM |

    I'm trying to understand trade-offs.  Since quitting meat my weight hasn't changed, my blood sugar has improved, and my LDL is worse.

  • Kevin

    11/12/2010 7:35:40 PM |

    I took a closer look.  It's naloxone, not naltrexone.  Very rarely I see a dog that's ingested opiates.  That's why I have it but as I said, the dozen vials have reached the expiration date.


  • Sue

    11/13/2010 3:22:52 AM |

    Sorry, completely off topic but did you see the article in HeartWire re reducing LDL even more.

  • ilaçlama

    11/13/2010 11:03:45 AM |

    Thanx For subject

  • Anonymous

    11/13/2010 1:55:04 PM |

    I suffer from depression and would like to know more about how giving up wheat has helped you. Do u mind emailing me? If you don't scooby43215@yahoo.com. Thanks in advance.

  • Denny Barnes

    11/17/2010 8:50:40 AM |

    The diabetes guru Dr. Bernstein has written about low dose naltrexone therapy (LDN) to help diabetics lose weight.  Have you used LDN with your patients?  I understand that a low dose of naltrexone taken at night at first inhibits endorphin release and then stimulates it.  Presumably, increased endorphins eliminates the need for addictive foods and lowers inflammation.  Your thoughts?

  • elpi

    11/18/2010 1:30:57 AM |

    I just need to exercise and a healthy diet for me to lose weight. .That's all

  • Rene Sugar

    11/29/2010 6:25:35 PM |

    There is a Scientific American article that says negative emotions and pain-induced negative emotion are processed in the same brain areas so pain medication also relieves emotional pain.

    If wheat has opiate like effects, it might explain "emotional eating".