Addictive Drugs: Specific Nutritional Strategies
Imagine how you felt after the best sex ever, multiplied by 12. That’s what methamphetamine addicts describe feeling after first using the drug. And, why they chase that feeling for years even when libido fades, thinking scrambles, teeth rot and break, and skin becomes sallow and railroad tracked by fingernail scratches trying to relieve a sensation of bugs crawling beneath the surface. Not a pretty picture! Yet 1.2 million people are addicted to methamphetamine and suffer this scenario daily in the United States.
With media attention on opioid addiction it is easy to forget that the stimulant methamphetamine is responsible for more drug-related treatment admissions in some communities than any other drug. In Sacramento County, California, for example, in 2015, nearly twice as many of those admitted to treatment used methamphetamine (41%) as alcohol (23%) or opioids (20%). Across the USA, methamphetamine is one of the four drugs most mentioned in emergency room visits.
THE BRAIN ON AND OFF METH
A meth high forces the release of three powerful stimulant neurotransmitters into the space between nerves in the brain. Dopamine injects feelings of arousal and reward; Norepinephrine focuses the mind and primes the memory; Epinephrine (adrenalin) stops hunger and pumps the body with agitated energy.
What can be done to quench the powerful urge to keep using meth and to stop the hideous crash that begins as the drug wears off, or the profound fatigue and long-term consequences of prolonged malnourishment and lack of sleep. This is drives 86% of users back to using after treatment.
You may be surprised to learn that some addiction treatment professionals find methamphetamine the easiest drug of all to treat successfully. The Sacramento County Probation Department’s Adult Drug Court learned from Julia Ross, MA, author and nationally recognized pioneer in the nutritional treatment of addiction, that over-the-counter supplements of the amino acid L-tyrosine can extinguish fatigue and cravings for meth within an hour. This simple nutrient, one of 20 building blocks of protein, quickly restores brain levels of all 3 stimulating neurotransmitters.
For full recovery those addicted to meth need high doses of L-tyrosine three to four times a day for several weeks, then a lower dose daily for months or over a year depending on the individual’s use history and inherited biochemistry. Additional helper nutrients are also needed to support this amino acid’s brain repair. They must be derived from both wholesome food and specific nutritional supplements such as vitamin C, a multivitamin/mineral, and omega 3 fatty acids found in cold water fish oil.
There are those who claim damage to a brain by meth is permanent, but Carolyn Reuben, L.Ac., doesn’t agree. After 16 years of watching clients during their 10 months’ minimum stay at Sacramento County Probation Department’s Adult Drug Court, Carolyn can attest to the transformative power of nutrition for brain repair.
“In our program 51% of clients used methamphetamine. All clients in the first phase of the program received:
Individualized amino acid supplementation. The methamphetamine addicts typically were instructed to take up to 2,000mg of L-tyrosine two to three times a day.
A smoothie containing quality protein and fruit
Lessons in how food choices influenced their recovery
A meal the clients cooked in class and ate together.
A bag of healthy food to take home each week.
We also offered mind-body integration techniques like ear acupuncture, yoga, and Chinese exercise.
In 2006 the Institute for Social Policy at CSUS followed graduates for a year and found the re-arrest rate had dropped from 17% to 13%. Fully 87% of our graduates stayed out of the criminal justice system.
According to researchers, due to reduced recidivism during its first ten years our Drug Court program saved the County of Sacramento over $20 million.
Nutrition is a potent treatment tool for methamphetamine addiction and needs to be the foundation of every treatment program. Even great sex can’t compete with the exuberance of a well-nourished happy brain.
Meth and the Thyroid
Julia Ross, MA reports that the only methamphetamine or cocaine addicts she has seen who don’t respond to L-tyrosine and improved diet have had underlying thyroid disease (or, in one case, hepatitis) that caused the fatigue that drew them to using meth. When treated with thyroid hormone their energy returned and their meth cravings disappeared.
Julia Ross, MA directed addiction treatment programs in California for 25 years, wrote the best-selling The Mood Cure (Penguin, 2004), founded The NeuroNutrient Therapy Institute in Mill Valley, California, to train health professionals about nutritional therapies, (www.dietcure.com)and cofounded the nonprofit Alliance for Addiction Solutions (www.transformingaddiction.com). 415-383-3611,
Carolyn Reuben, L.Ac., founded and directed a nonprofit organization using nutrition, acupuncture, and other drug-free treatments at the county Drug Court and multiple other public and private treatment programs for 17 years and was founding President of the Alliance for Addiction Solutions.
NPC Research study of the Sacramento County Drug Court.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2012, about 1.2 million people admitted to using methamphetamine during the prior year.
The Drug Abuse Warning Network reported meth following cocaine, marijuana, and heroin in emergency department visits in 2011. ibid.
The Effects of Methamphetamine on the Brain by Dustin Fry
A lab experiment on animals showed dopamine levels were raised 100-200 units by food and sex, 350 by cocaine, and 1,250 by methamphetamine. How Meth Destroys the Body; Frontline, PBS
End Your Addiction Now by Charles Gant, MD, PhD and Greg Lewis, Square One, 2010. For more specifics on the nutritional recovery process from methamphetamine and cocaine addiction, see p. 191-201. Dr. Gant was a co-founder of the Alliance for Addiction Solutions and is a pioneer in the nutritional treatment of addiction. “Although cocaine and methamphetamine abuse can quickly escalate to crisis proportions, I want to reiterate that stopping the use of these substances is often a fairly straightforward proposition…Many cocaine and methamphetamine users report immediate noticeable reductions in their cravings for these substances. They also report that as long as they continue to supplement with tyrosine and the other Quick-Start nutrients, they don’t experience the low-energy “crash” or depression that so often accompany stimulant recovery for the first several months. As one of my patients puts it, “The nutrients take the fear out of stopping. I actually was afraid of what might happen if I quit, afraid of facing those cravings and that awful depression. But there is no need to feel that way. Not if you are taking the nutrients.” P. 200, End Your Addiction Now