Drug and alcohol addictions have a serious effect on the brain. Some drugs, like heroin, disrupt the normal communication of the brain by attaching to neurons, tricking the brain into thinking they are normal neurotransmitters. Other drugs, like cocaine and meth, flood the brain with neurotransmitters – normally dopamine – causing a serious imbalance.
When this occurs the brain produces fewer neurotransmitters in an attempt to create balance. This results in a perceived need for more drugs to create the pleasant feeling that comes from a neurotransmitter flood. Eventually, a person cannot feel good without the drugs because the brain shuts down neurotransmitter production as it struggles to become balanced again.
Drugs can cause the brain to release as much as 10 times the normal amount of dopamine that is released during normal pleasurable activities, and the feeling produced occurs faster and lasts longer than usual. Soon, things that used to make you feel good don’t give you the same feeling, so you become depressed and unmotivated. In this way, your brain is tricked into craving more and more drugs to create a happy, euphoric feeling again. This is what creates addiction, and in the case of some drugs, addiction can occur after only one use of the drug.
The Vitamin Connection
It’s no secret that drug and alcohol addictions are also difficult on your body. However, what you may not realize is that addictions deplete essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly. This is why vitamins for addiction recovery are imperative to getting yourself healthy again.
There are two main reasons that addictions result in nutritional deficiencies. One is that people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol tend to lose their appetite for normal food. They either don’t feel hungry or they may crave unhealthy foods with few nutrients.
The second reason is that drugs and alcohol prevent the body from absorbing essential vitamins and minerals. Drug abuse can cause damage to your stomach along with your entire gastrointestinal tract. It causes damage to the mucous membrane in your gut that breaks down foods so you can absorb their nutrients. Gastrointestinal damage may be first seen in the form of nausea, later progressing to vomiting and diarrhea or constipation, depending on the substance being abused.
Alcohol, for example, inhibits the liver’s ability to produce digestive enzymes. This makes it difficult for the body to absorb proteins, fats, B vitamins and fat-soluble vitamins. Lack of these nutrients leads to all sorts of health issues, including neurological, liver, cardiovascular and other problems. Digestive issues are often experienced during withdrawal and recovery as well. Including key nutrients and vitamins in your recovery program can improve your rate of recovery, and when you take the right vitamins for drug addiction, withdrawal is easier to tolerate, reducing the possibility for relapse.
Signs of Malnutrition
When your body can’t get the nutrients it needs, whether due to a poor diet or because the gastrointestinal tract is damaged, you start to suffer from malnutrition. Common symptoms of malnutrition, aside from weight loss, include:
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Tooth decay
- Muscle loss
- Bone loss
- Dry skin
- Memory loss
- Bloated abdomen
- Heart problems
- Poor liver function
- Kidney damage
- Trouble breathing
- Menstrual problems
- Stomach/digestive problems
Many of these problems can be reversed through proper nutrition, though some of them will cause lifelong issues. Some conditions that may result from malnutrition include heart disease, asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and even death. There is no better time than now to start your recovery plan and get on the road to better health and a longer, happier life.
Vitamins for addiction withdrawal can help you on your road to recovery, as well as improve your health.
Vitamins for Withdrawal From Alcohol Addiction
According to a 2014 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than half of Americans aged 12 and older use alcohol. Chronic alcohol use causes a change in brain chemistry over time, so when alcohol is eliminated, withdrawals can occur. These may range from depression, anxiety, sleep problems and fatigue to seizures, fever and hallucinations.
Alcoholism causes deficiencies in B vitamins as well as vitamins C and A, so supplementing these nutrients is important for recovery. Other nutrients are also useful for minimizing actual withdrawal symptoms from alcohol. One such nutritional supplement is evening primrose oil. This essential fatty acid supports brain function and may be helpful in reducing symptoms of withdrawal.
Alcohol damages the pancreas, which regulates blood sugar. L-glutamine, an amino acid, reduces cravings while balancing blood sugar levels. Vitamin C is also commonly used to strengthen your immune system, which has been weakened by the stress of alcohol use. It also helps to rid the body of excess alcohol during the withdrawal period.
Managing withdrawal is only part of the picture. You also need to rebuild your body’s systems that have been damaged by alcohol abuse. B vitamins are typically very deficient in alcoholics. Therefore, B complex is vital and is often given via injection during recovery. In addition, extra B6 can help reduce the anxiety and stress of the recovery process. Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, helps the body to detoxify.
The brain’s ability to process the essential amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan is compromised with alcohol use. Tyrosine promotes alertness while tryptophan is key to the production of serotonin – a vital nutrient for proper sleep and the ability to be calm. An amino acid complex is often given not only to reduce withdrawals, but also to help the liver regenerate damaged cells and to help with proper brain function. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), inositol and niacinamide may also be used to ease stress and anxiety. Glutathione and L-methionine are useful in protecting the liver and reducing alcohol cravings.
Vitamins for Opiate Addiction
Opiates can be acquired illegally as well as by prescription, and they are easy to abuse because in addition to relieving pain, they create a feeling of euphoria in the brain. For this reason, even people taking opiates legally under advice of their doctor can become dependent.
Heroin, perhaps the scariest of the opiate drugs, affects your brain’s ability to produce dopamine. Once hooked, users are not able to feel good without the drug. Opiates affect your brain’s ability to produce neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that make you feel happy and good about yourself.
There are four main neurotransmitters affected by opioid use:
- Acetylcholine – Acetylcholine aids in memory and the processing of information. When your brain doesn’t produce the right amount of this neurotransmitter, you feel foggy and forgetful. You may experience learning difficulties and trouble focusing, as well as stress and mood swings.
- Dopamine – Dopamine is important for regulating your mood and energy levels. If you don’t have enough, you feel irritable, anxious and unmotivated. You may experience fatigue, memory loss or a sense of panic.
- Endorphins – Endorphins are important to minimize the feelings of pain, and they also produce that runner’s high when you work out intensely. They create a mental cue that something is enough, whether that’s a pleasurable activity or just when to stop eating. Not enough endorphins can cause body aches and depression.
- Serotonin – This brain chemical helps you to sleep properly and regulates your appetite. When serotonin production goes down, you don’t sleep well and you don’t eat properly, leading to nutritional problems, among other things. You may experience depression, confusion and problems learning.
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – GABA is what keeps you calm and relaxed. If you don’t have enough, you’ll feel restless and anxious. You may experience muscle cramps, headache, muscle pain, stomach cramps and foggy thinking.
When drugs create the same feel-good reflex as the chemicals in your brain, you get overloaded. To compensate, your brain produces fewer of these important chemicals. This is the reason you go through withdrawals when you quit opiates – your brain chemicals are no longer balanced. In fact, they are dangerously low. Using vitamins and supplements can help get you through the process of healing from opiate addiction.
During withdrawal, vitamin C helps detoxify your body while helping to minimize drug cravings. When used along with vitamin E, it may also improve cognitive functioning. For better sleep and a clearer mind, 5-HTP helps the brain produce serotonin and melatonin. It’s also proven helpful for migraines, depression and other issues. Taking B-complex helps reduce stress on the body while also reducing the fatigue common with withdrawals.
Calcium and magnesium help to relax your muscles, calm your body and nourish your central nervous system. This helps with anxiety as well as muscle aches and spasms during withdrawal. L-glutamine may also be useful because it is what the brain uses to produce GABA. While you can get GABA supplements, they are not as useful as L-glutamine because they do not pass through the blood-brain barrier. Helping your brain make its own GABA is far more effective.
SAM-e is another helpful supplement. Known to treat depression, SAM-e is needed to boost serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. It’s also essential for the production of glutathione. These are some of the most common vitamins for heroin addiction as well as for addiction to other opiates. Your personal plan for recovery may vary.
Vitamins for Meth Addiction
Meth is a dangerous neurotoxin that destroys the brain and it can take a long time to heal the damage. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states, “Some of these brain changes persist long after methamphetamine use is stopped, although some may reverse after being off the drug for a sustained period (e.g., more than 1 year).” Meth affects the brain’s ability to produce dopamine and also makes it difficult for the body to absorb the vitamins and minerals it needs.
One of the vitamins that the body needs is B12. While this is known as a vitamin that gives you energy, it does so much more. Taking vitamin B12 supplements will help heal the damage meth has done to your nervous system and liver.
Another B vitamin, pantothenic acid (B5), helps minimize anxiety associated with withdrawals. The production of serotonin and norepinephrine are also improved with B5 supplementation, which can help rebuild brain function and memory.
Vitamin C helps detoxify your body while reducing cravings for drugs. It also boosts your immune system, which is likely depressed from drug use. During the healing process from meth addiction, you may be given high doses of vitamin C, but whatever your body can’t use is flushed out of your system.
Meth also dehydrates the body. Dehydration makes it difficult to produce enough saliva to aid in the breakdown of foods. This contributes to malnutrition. Dehydration can also damage your organs, muscles, liver and joints. Be sure to drink plenty of clean water during your recovery.
Meth damages the production of neurotransmitters in your brain, much like opiates. To treat this, amino acids are useful. The most commonly used amino acids for meth recovery include:
- L-Glutamine – Deficiency causes dizziness and irritability as well as a shaky, weak feeling. It may even lead you to choose dangerous activities that will give you a high or adrenaline rush. Supplementation will balance your blood sugar and reduce cravings while improving mental focus.
- L-Tyrosine – Deficiency causes lack of mental focus, fatigue, depression, and loss of interest and motivation. Supplementation will aid in the production of dopamine and other vital neurotransmitters.
- DL-Phenylalanine – Helps the body to use endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers. Deficiency includes pain sensitivity and feeling abnormally emotional and weepy. Supplementation will reduce cravings, reduce depression and reduce pain.
Vitamins for Cocaine Addiction
In 2008 there were 1.9 million cocaine users in the U.S. That same year, 24 percent of emergency room visits involving drug use were related to cocaine. Cocaine use depletes the body of important nutrients, leading to serious organ damage. This is why supplementation is so important for your cocaine recovery plan.
Vitamin C has been found to reduce the body’s ability to become addicted and is helpful in the detoxification process of withdrawal. It is necessary for the brain to make neurotransmitters and is supplemented to reduce cravings while also strengthening the immune system. Vitamin C also fights free radicals, protecting your organs and tissues from damage.
Cocaine use especially depletes glutamate, a neurotransmitter that affects your memory and focus. To correct this deficiency, L-glutamine is used as a supplement under professional supervision during healing and recovery. Because cocaine withdrawal typically includes severe fatigue, B vitamins are commonly supplemented as well. Not only do B vitamins give you energy, but they are also essential for the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Proper nerve and organ function also require B vitamins.
Diet for Healing
As a general rule, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium and magnesium and the most useful supplements to help you cope with withdrawal symptoms. Once you are past that point and healing, you’ll want to add plenty of lean protein along with a good multivitamin to give your brain and body the tools to rebuild and become strong again.
The best way to get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs is through proper diet. A nutrient-dense diet that is also protein rich is vital to your path to healing and a key part of a holistic healing system. Proper diet also helps your body deal with the stress of detoxing and allows you to rest more soundly, both of which are vital to any recovery program.
You should avoid things like sugar and highly processed foods, as these are poor sources of nutrients and can increase your cravings for drugs or alcohol. To increase the specific nutrients that your body needs to heal, there are some foods you should especially include in your diet.
- Foods Rich in B Vitamins – Dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, asparagus and green peppers are excellent sources of B vitamins. Liver, lentils, beets and romaine lettuce are also packed with B vitamins.
- Vitamin C-Rich Foods – Everyone knows citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, but you have other options to increase your intake of this vitamin as well. Green peppers, broccoli, strawberries, cantaloupe, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are all excellent sources of vitamin C.
- Calcium-Rich Foods – You probably already know that dairy products like cheese, yogurt and milk are very good sources of calcium. However, not everyone can eat dairy products. Fortunately, there are other sources of this vital mineral. Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are good sources of calcium. So are sardines, fortified cereals, enriched breads and fortified orange juice.
- Magnesium-Rich Foods – Dark leafy greens provide a good source of magnesium. Nuts and seeds are also great sources. In addition, you can try wild salmon, wild tuna, avocado and bananas for added magnesium in your diet.
- Food Rich in Amino Acids – High-protein foods will boost your amino acids, so try foods like lean red meats, poultry and seafood. Eggs and dairy products are excellent sources as well, and there are also plant-based sources of protein such as quinoa, tofu, beans and seeds.
As you can see, most of the nutrients your body needs are found in vegetables. Plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with pure water and healthy proteins, are vital to your recovery diet. Also, include the healthy fats found in avocados, nuts and seeds, and olive oil. Healthy fats not only help you feel full, but they also aid the in recovery of your cells while your body heals.
Don’t forget an occasional treat! Try a piece of dark chocolate. Chocolate is a good source of magnesium and will make you feel like you’re indulging. Just don’t get carried away and give yourself an upset stomach. Exercise is another healing method during withdrawal and recovery that helps detoxify your body while also boosting the production of endorphins in your brain. This will minimize cravings so you are less likely to relapse. Don’t underestimate the value of plenty of rest, as well. When your body sleeps, it heals.
When your body has been damaged by drug or alcohol abuse, a healthy diet alone isn’t always enough. In addition, supplements need to be administered at the proper time during recovery for the best effect. Some work best during the withdrawal process, while others help you heal after the withdrawals have passed. Because some supplements may need to be taken in high doses, professional supervision is important.
There is no cookie-cutter treatment to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. Each plan must be tailored to the individual. Your personal plan will start with helping you through the detoxification process in a healthy, holistic way. From there, we will help you repair your body and mind with proper nutrition, fitness and counseling personalized to fit your individual needs. Contact 12 Keys Rehab to begin your personal plan for healing and recovery.