Understanding Amino Acids and Addiction Recovery

Understanding Amino Acids and Addiction Recovery

By In Addiction Recovery, Nutrition and Mental Health, Relapse Prevention
Posted March 4, 2015

Amino Acid Replacement Therapy is gaining ground in the field of addiction recovery, but what is it and how does it help? Here is a breakdown that should answer these questions:

Amino Acid Replacement Therapy and Relapse Prevention

EMDR Therapy

Neurons in the brain

We are all wired to seek physical and emotional comfort. Bottom line, we want to feel good. Chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters play a vital role in our feelings of overall well-being and pleasure. Basically, the way the brain works, we eat certain foods because these foods produce a better reward than others. We engage in certain activities, like work or a romantic relationship because they release pleasurable chemicals. Even simple things, like watching a comedy, petting our dog, or standing at the ocean shore produce a a reward. All of this works together to keep us alive, functioning, motivated and reproducing.

Now, let’s talk about drug addiction. When a person with a predisposition to addiction engages in an activity, such as drinking or drug use, the natural production of ‘feel good’ hormones is interrupted. These substances actually change the biochemistry of the brain, and the ability to create feelings of well-being in natural ways. The drug, then becomes the only means of relief for many addicts, and the chosen activity will rapidly progress into the destructive cycle that most of us know as ‘active addiction.’

So, where do amino acids come in?

Amino acid supplements have been shown to help curb the appetite for unhealthy habits, especially in early addiction when the body isn’t producing any positive hormones on its own. Amino Acid Replacement Therapy can aid in bringing a sense of control back to the individual (in much less time than would occur unaided). The amino acids used are the precursors that our bodies use to create the neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for well-being and pleasure.

Lyle Fried, CEO and co-founder of The Shores Treatment and Recovery Center has witnessed the benefits with the many clients he has worked with, “Many individuals coming into treatment for drug or alcohol addiction are already nutritionally deficient, so a healthy eating plan is key, but we have experienced marked results when amino acids are also offered in early recovery.

Preventing relapse and returning a new client to a sense of well-being, which takes them out of drug-seeking behaviors and allows them to fully engage and benefit from the tools they are being given, is a critical component of addiction treatment.”

Charles Gant, MD, and author of End Your Addiction Now has conducted extensive research on Amino Replacement Therapy. Below is a list of some of the key amino acids, along with their direct benefits:

Amino Acids and Amino Acid Therapy

How amino acids affect the brain

Although there are 22 amino acids that can be found in food, Amino Acid Replacement Therapy focuses on five to eight of them. Each of the following amino acids influences the activity of a particular neurotransmitter, that, in turn, directly affects cravings related to a specific drug.

L-Tryptophan – A necessary amino for serotonin production, the brain’s natural antidepressant. Serotonin deficiency symptoms can include any of the following: self-deprecation, anxiety, sleep disorders, compulsive thoughts and behaviors, depression, irritability, panic, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, cravings that become more pronounced in the afternoon or evening. Cravings related to L-Tryptophan deficiency may include sweets and starches; nicotine, marijuana, and alcohol.

GABA – Known as the anti-stress chemical, a deficiency of GABA can present itself with: anxiety, emotional or physical tension, and the feeling of being overwhelmed by circumstances. Cravings related to GABA deficiency may include nicotine, marijuana, alcohol or carbohydrates.

DLPA D-Phenylalanine – Increases the lifespan of endorphins, which are pain-relieving chemicals. Symptoms of Endorphin deficiency may include weepiness, crying spells and fragile emotions, and pain sensitivity.
Cravings related to DLPA D-Phenylalanine deficiency can include starches and sweets, heroin, nicotine, marijuana or alcohol.

L-Tyrosine – Is necessary for the production of catecholamines like norepinephrine dopamine, and epinephrine. These are the “I’m alert and ready for my day” neurotransmitters. They are connected to clarity, focus and concentration. Symptoms of deficiency can include a lack of clarity and focus, fatigue, lack of motivation, apathy, an overall lack of energy to engage in personal interests or work, depression, and may be diagnosed as ADD, attention deficit disorder. Cravings related to catecholamine deficiency may include anything that will bring a boost of energy, such as sweets and starches, caffeine, methamphetamine and cocaine. The deficiency may also present itself in choosing risky sports and activities, unsafe sex, or gambling in order to feel more awake and alive.

L-Glutamine – Is the ideal “brain balancer,” regulating blood sugar levels to maintain clarity as well as energy. L-Glutamine deficiency can cause shakiness, irritability, weakness, dizziness, especially when too much time has passed between meals. Cravings can be anything that provides a boost to low blood sugar, like starches, sweets, and alcohol.

At The Shores Treatment and Recovery, we offer amino acid therapy as part of our holistic approach to drug and alcohol rehab. Addiction is a symptom of a much deeper problem, and we do all we can to treat the whole person and provide the best possible outcomes. Nutrient deficiencies can’t be left out.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please give us a call today.

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