A key component in reversing the damage of long-term opiate use is amino acid, vitamin, and mineral supplementation.
Vitamins and Minerals
A good multivitamin is an important component of your nutritional therapy. Find a good one that contains 100% (or more) of your RDA (recommended daily allowance) of a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, preferably in capsule form, like these. This is a great starting point for improving your health in general, but it is particularly important during a detox.
In addition to your multivitamin, you’ll want to take additional doses of Vitamin C for the antioxidant support. Vitamin C supplements are very inexpensive and usually come in doses of 500mg or 1000mg. The ‘upper limit’ of Vitamin C in most adults is set at 2000mg per day (doses above that level can cause gastrointestinal problems), so you won’t want to exceed that dose. Taking 1000mg to 2000mg of Vitamin C per day, in divided doses (half in the morning and half at night), reduces the number of damaging free radical molecules in the body. Other antioxidant vitamins, such as Vitamin E, are very helpful as well and should also be taken. Another inexpensive antioxidant are the Acai Berry Capsules. Remember, your body will be going under a significant amount of oxidative stress during detoxification. While taking antioxidants is a good idea for those not undergoing a detox, it is an even better idea if you are.
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.
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.