You may be wondering where pharmaceuticals fit into this scenario. Alliance members often work with clients who have been to prior programs where they have been put on multiple drugs, sequentially or simultaneously, over many years. This is a fixed feature of addiction treatment in today’s world. Yet we know that the human body has no known deficiency of neurotransmitter-targeted drugs like Neurontin, Ritalin, or Prozac, though the addicted body may have a deficiency of the actual neurotransmitters endorphin, GABA, dopamine, or serotonin. And, we know that ingesting amino acids like D-phenylalanine, GABA, L-tyrosine, and L-tryptophan rebuilds the body’s stores of any of these four neurotransmitters that may be depleted. After a matter of months on the amino acids, the original symptoms of neurotransmitter distress are eliminated, without side effects (or addiction to the aminos). At that point, the amino acids are no longer needed, except during periods of severe stress or if a pro-recovery diet has not been consistently adopted.
In a drug treatment program based on Alliance principles, a common feature of treatment is detoxification from pharmaceutical drugs with the help of neuro-nutrition (amino acid therapy) and a pro-recovery diet. People may enter our programs feeling that they need prescription drugs to detox from their drugs of addiction. This may be useful initially, but our goal is to see them exit clean and sober without the need for pharmaceuticals other than those for treating physical or mental conditions beyond addiction. Often, even those conditions are positively impacted by the improvement in brain and body nutrition, rest, good sleep, and lifestyle stress reduction.
"I came here on five medications that I am no longer on, that I thought I would be on for the rest of my life"
says M.R., a severely recidivistic alcoholic who reports that intravenous and oral nutrients helped him stop taking high blood pressure medication, two benzodiazepines and two antidepressants in a program run by an Alliance member.
Here’s a link to a detailed description of a case of multiple pharmaceuticals and a lifetime binge eating disorder resolved with nutrient therapy.
Many Alliance members have had consistent success helping clients who wanted to go off antidepressants. One of our co-founders, psychotherapist Julia Ross, MA, developed this model that has been successfully used by many of our members. She starts by administering the neurotransmitter deficiency questionnaire to identify whether serotonin levels are depleted. If the scores are high, even in those who are currently on serotonin targeted medications (SSRIs), she trials one or both of the amino acids, tryptophan and 5-HTP. These are precursors for the natural antidepressant neurotransmitter serotonin. She has found that those having severe sleep problems along with depression have tended to do better on tryptophan than 5-HTP, but about 80% of low-serotonin clients tend to do equally well on either amino acid.
In the initial two weeks, when amino acids are used along with antidepressant medications, the supplements should be consumed at least four hours apart from the medication.
A positive response to this amino acid trial (reportedly 95% of the general public, somewhat fewer of those in early recovery from other drugs) almost always indicates that the amino acid will be more effective than the medication had been. At that point, the prescribing doctor is contacted to approve a taper-off protocol from the antidepressant drug.
CAUTION: When two serotonin-targeted antidepressants are being used at the same time, one should be tapered off with the prescriber’s help before regular use of L-tryptophan or 5HTP begins. This is usually accomplished quickly and easily.
NOTE: Some people are surprised to learn that the Trazadone prescribed to them for improved sleep is an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). Since adequate sleep is needed for successful recovery, and Trazadone can be very effective as a non-addictive sleep aid, it is often the SSRI that remains in use until a person is able to find a more natural way to sleep without it.
During the SSRI taper, whichever amino seems best is used typically at least twice a day, several hours away from the medication. This process both prevents uncomfortable medication withdrawal symptoms and provides much better mood benefits.
When the client can discontinue amino use with no return of depression symptoms, a complete serotonin function repair has been accomplished. The taper-off process is usually accomplished in a few weeks, with the aminos typically needed for six to twelve months after that (assuming that a pro-recovery diet is also in place).
Unlike SSRI medications that typically take weeks to begin to improve mood and work less well over time, tryptophan or 5-HTP typically provide a positive mood response within ten minutes and that response gets better over time.
When amino acids, other nutrients and a pro-recovery diet do not fully support recovery by themselves, pharmaceuticals may be needed. None of the Alliance members claims 100% success with nutrients alone. We have to keep looking for what each unique client needs. For example, before tryptophan became available again in the late 1990’s, many of our clients had to add Prozac to the nutrient regimens we provided (and, we had to admit that it helped!). Most of our clients now do not need such medication, but some do. Those suffering from bipolar or psychotic conditions, especially, seem to need the extra help from mood stabilizers or antipsychotic medications. The nutrients typically combine well with these medications, which can allow the medications to be administered at lower doses to minimize side effects.
One Alliance member shared that her intensive nutritional program had taken one cocaine-and-pot-addicted client completely off his Abilify, a drug often used for bipolar disorder, at the insistence of the addict and his family. However, he never responded well to the switch, even after six weeks in the program. When he got home, he began to sneak doses of Abilify and then went back to his street drugs as well.
He was sent a new supplement called “Grounded” by PacificBiologics. It had amazing results: The client immediately seemed and felt clear and normal. (It was great for his hyper mother, too). Within a few months he moved out of his parents’ home and was able to live on his own, but only when the Grounded was used with the Abilify. This young man had a genetically transmitted brain function problem. Our nutritional approaches, alone, could not fully correct it and the pharmaceuticals, alone, could not correct it fully either. Yet the combination of the two worked well together.
Even our heroes, the original nutritional therapy pioneers Abram Hoffer, MD, PHD, and Carl Pfeiffer, MD, PhD, frequently had to combine nutrient therapy with pharmacotherapy. The niacin treatment for psychosis that Dr. Hoffer developed, for example, can take years to completely correct the condition. Until then, the niacin is taken along with the antipsychotic medication.
In some cases, nutrients can substitute for medication, even in cases of severe mental illness. For example, former Alliance Board member Teresa Kolpak of True Hope in Canada (with whom she has worked for many years) reports that their micronutrient therapy is able to very quickly substitute for medication in many of the people they’ve worked with who have suffered from mental illness.
Julia Ross, MA reports on a 14-year-old boy with intractable psychosis that no medication could successfully control. He went through the True Hope program and was fully functional in a few months. (His psychosis was triggered by his marijuana use. This link has been well researched and confirmed worldwide).
In summary, the Alliance shares the vision of our early mentor Dr. Abram Hoffer, who imagined a day when whole foods and nutrient therapy were the norm and drugs, as Hoffer wrote in his autobiography Adventures in Psychiatry, “will become minor aspects of modern medicine rather than the major treatment and preoccupation of the medical establishment.”
See the chapter Prescription Drugs in Recovery in End Your Addiction Now by Charles Gant, MD, PhD and Greg Lewis, PhD (Square One, 2010)(p. 231-242)
See also Chapter 12 Alternatives to Anti-Depressants in The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, MA and further information on www.moodcure.com