A key component in reversing the damage of long-term opiate use is amino acid, vitamin, and mineral supplementation.
Amino acids are the “building blocks” for neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and many others that are manipulated by opiate use. There are 3 amino acids that you will want to begin taking when you start your detox. You should take 1000mg in the morning, and 1000mg in the evening, for a total of 2000mg per day. Amino acid capsules generally sell for $10-$15 for a bottle of 100 capsules, with each capsule containing 500mg.
1. L-Glutamine: Building block for GABA, which is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. L-Glutamine also helps heal the gut. (You’ll probably notice that GABA itself is sold as a supplement, but you won’t want to take it – GABA is made inside the brain when in the presence of L-Glutamine, but GABA molecules themselves don’t cross the ‘blood-brain barrier,’ so the most effective way to produce GABA is to take plenty of L-Glutamine.)
2. L-Methionine: Used for the production of SAM-e, which is one of several factors needed for the production of serotonin, dopamine, and a handful of others.
3. L-Tyrosine: Useful in naturally boosting your energy levels, as fatigue is one of the most common symptoms. And, like, L-Methionine, L-Tyrosine has a positive effect on your serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters. Note that L-Tyrosine requires additional Vitamin B-6 for proper absorption.
A very important, but commonly overlooked, consideration when taking amino acids is that you must take them on an empty stomach. You should take them with a glass of water, and not with any other drink. Why? Amino acids compete with each other for entry into the brain. If you eat or drink anything with protein in it with your amino acids, those amino acids will prevent your chosen amino acid supplements from doing their job properly!
Melatonin is a useful supplement, both as a sleep aid and as an antioxidant. Typically, melatonin supplements are sold in tablets of 2.5mg to 5mg. It’s safe to take more than that dose, but low doses have been found to be just as effective. Melatonin only lasts in the body for a few hours or so, so if you wake up in the middle of the night (which you probably will), it’s fine to take another one. The room should be dark when you take melatonin, as this is how the hormone is released naturally.
For more natural ways to induce sleep you might try Kava Kava (either as a tea or in capsules), or Valerian Root supplements. If that doesn’t help, over-the-counter sleep aids like Unisom (diphenhydramine) can be helpful, in doses of 25-50mg. If you have a prescription (I do not condone taking prescription medication that isn’t prescribed to you), a benzodiazepine such as Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin can help you fall asleep if nothing else will, as well as reduce anxiety. Just take care not to take them too often (why go to all this work just to substitute one addiction for another?), and do so only under the supervision of a doctor. Valium or Klonopin are the most useful of the benzodiazepines, since they also have muscle relaxant qualities. If you are dependent on opiates as the result of an injury for which you are also prescribed a skeletal muscle relaxant such as Flexeril or Soma, these medications can help with your muscle cramps, and also help you sleep.
Fish oils (Omega 3, 6, and 9) are some of the most important supplements you can take, as these fatty acids lay the foundation for several important body functions. Fish oils are needed for the functioning and repair of cellular membranes. Of these, Omega 3 is of particular importance. You should also take Vitamin E supplements with your fish oils, as fish oils cause an increased requirement for fat-soluble antioxidant vitamins.
Milk Thistle, N-Acetyl Cysteine, and Alpha-Lipoic Acid are important supplements to restore full liver functionality. Whole Foods sells a product called Opti-Liver, which contains all three, plus more. It’s important to take these supplements with food to ensure proper absorption. As with most supplements, it’s a good idea to spread your dose throughout the course of the day. You’ll want to take in 1200mg of milk thistle, 400mg of Alpha-Lipoic Acid, and 600mg of NAC each day. If you eat three meals a day, you could divide those doses by three to take with each meal. Milk Thistle, along with dozens of other liver-healthy ingredients is included in this detox comfort supplement formula.
Special Note about NAC: Vicodin and Percocet users sometimes take N-Acetyl-Cysteine capsules with their pills, as NAC helps the liver break down Tylenol more easily. NAC actually helps break down many drugs in the liver, not just analgesics. It can really save lives by reducing stress on the liver. In fact, very high doses of NAC are given intravenously in hospitals to patients suffering from Tylenol overdoses.
Fatigue is one of the most common and the most persistent of the opiate withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, there are ways to combat it, and restore your energy levels gradually back to normal. Adrenal support is vital in this process, as opiates are particularly hard on your adrenal glands. Take two capsules a day for at least 3 months, as fatigue is a long-lasting PAWS (post acute withdrawal symptoms) symptom.