Are Amino Acids a Factor in Long-Term Recovery?

Drug addiction and alcoholism can be some of the most challenging things anyone has to face. Breaking the cycle can be incredibly difficult. Temptation and cravings are constant threats to one’s road to recovery. Thankfully, there are certain programs, along with a number of treatment centers that help individuals recover from addiction. Still, many will relapse at least once during their journey to long-term recovery. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, the chronic nature of addiction means that relapse is not only possible, but is actually pretty likely at some point. Relapse rates for those recovering from addictions to substances such as drugs or alcohol are comparable to those who suffer from other chronic, well-understood medical illnesses, such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension.

Relapse Isn’t an End to Recovery

Relapse does not mean that treatment has failed. Treating chronic disease like addiction involves changing deeply embedded behaviors. Rather than being a sign of the end, relapse is actually an indication that there needs to be a new beginning. What does this mean? Usually relapse is a sign that the current mode of treatment is unsuccessful and needs to be changed.

There are a number of treatment options available for those in need. However, an emerging treatment method is quickly gaining traction as an effective means of combating addiction. According to Dr. James Lake, a board-certified psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Stanford, amino acids may be the missing component when treating recovering addictions, especially those struggling with alcoholism. As it turns out, amino acids can reduce symptoms of alcohol abuse, intoxication, and even withdrawal.

Amino Acids Aiding in Recovery from Addiction

But how does this work? Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which, according to Dr. Lake, “are often deficient in alcoholics because of chronic malnutrition and malabsorption.” As a result, various studies have been conducted to determine the effect of amino acid supplements on managing cravings, intoxication, and withdrawal in recovering alcoholics. These supplements have been shown to be quite effective. This is likely because the amino acid supplements actually successfully counteracted many of the negative effects of alcoholism, including those suffered by those in recovery. In one instance, Dr. Lake explains, “the amino acid taurine lowers the level of acetaldehyde, a toxic metabolite of alcohol that can interfere with normal mental functioning.”

In a placebo-controlled study, 60 patients admitted into a hospital for acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms were given taurine supplements, whereas others were given a placebo. Interestingly, those who received the taurine supplements, not the placebo, were shown to have lessened symptoms of withdrawal, including fewer instances of delirium and hallucinations. Another placebo-controlled study supported these findings. In this study, some abstinent alcoholics were treated with acetyl-L-carnitine, or ALC, whereas others were given a placebo. Those who were given the doses of ALC actually performed better on memory, language, and reasoning tests than those who took the placebo instead.

Dr. Lake adds that “Tyrosine may be a useful add-on treatment in cocaine abuse.” His research has found that low serotonin is related to abnormally low serum levels of  L-tryptophan in a subset of alcoholics who are at higher risk of “developing early onset alcoholism with antisocial behavior.” This finding, in conjunction with those produced by animal studies, suggest that human cravings may be mitigated by reintroducing L-tryptophan via supplements. According to Dr. Lake, “taking L-tryptophan before drinking may reduce the severity of cognitive impairment associated with alcohol use.”

Helping More People Stay Sober Longer

Further research is needed into the relationship between amino acids and the reduction of cravings and withdrawal. Preliminary findings by Dr. Lake are promising. In addition to existing treatment methods employed by centers and advocated by healthcare professionals, reintroducing certain unique key supplements can also ease the process of recovery. By understanding which amino acids can provide the greatest benefit to addicted individuals struggling with various aspects overcoming their addiction. If it means offering more people and increasing more people recover from addiction and achiev long-term sobriety, then why not give it a try?

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