Amino Acid Supplements Can Help Thwart Cravings to Treat Addictions

A small amino acid supplement, available to the public without a prescription, is becoming useful in the treatment of various numbers of complex illnesses and addictions. University of Minnesota (UM) scientists recently have reported that N-acetyl cysteine helps to control urges in compulsive gamblers.

Glutathione is a derivative of this molecule and serves as a powerful antioxidant known to shield cells and tissues from damage due to free radicals. In the central nervous system, particularly the brain, glutathione is believed to play a significant role in addictions involving gambling, food, or drugs.

In a UM trial conducted over a span of eight weeks, twenty-seven (27) volunteers were administered daily doses of N-acetyl cysteine. Toward the end of the trail, sixty percent of those volunteers displayed a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their gambling urges and lesser disruptions in their daily lives relative to those urges.

The 16 individuals who displayed positive behavior changes were then invited to partake in a subsequent six-week trial, where they were administered either the supplement or a placebo. None of the individuals knew which one they were getting. Three of the volunteers declined citing that they didn’t want to run the risk of relapsing after having discontinued the supplement.

Of the volunteers who partook and received the N-acetyl cysteine supplement, eight-three (83) percent reported lesser numbers of gambling urges. On the flipside, the seventy-two (72) percent who received placebo pills experienced relapses and returned to their old gambling habits.

There is no question that both trials were small and brief, but the results are significant. The findings concur with earlier reports that N-acetyl cysteine might be useful in treating psychological addictions. In 2002, scientists at the Medical University of South Carolina have shown that the dietary supplement helped lower cocaine cravings in laboratory rats.

Extensive cocaine use screws up normal glutathione regulation in the brain. When the individual quits using the drug, glutathione regulation decreases.

Minimal amounts of cocaine can produce huge surges in glutathione along with feelings of intense pleasure in persons addicted to the drug. A person taking N-acetyl cysteine can restore his glutathione levels back to normal and help prevent those levels from elevating following cocaine use.

Other research suggests that the dietary supplement may also be helpful in treating persons suffering from methamphetamine addiction.

Even though the use of N-acetyl cysteine in treating drug addictions is new, this amino acid has an established track record in the treatment of other condition such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose.

Too much acetaminophen can reduce glutathione levels in the body and promote liver damage or even death. If the amino acid is administered within thirty-six (36) hours of acetaminophen overdose, glutathione levels can be normalized thus helping to protect the liver from injury.

Studies have shown that this supplement can prevent kidney failure or damage. In a paper published by the New England Journal of Medicine, N-acetyl cysteine can shield the kidneys from the harmful effects of contrast dyes administered to patients prior to their radiographic procedures.

N-acetyl cysteine has been shown to be beneficial in people having cystic fibrosis. This precursor to glutathione helps to break up mucus formation and improve lung function.

Several other trials suggest that this amino acid can play a major role in the prevention of certain degenerative brain disorders by elevating glutathione levels. Patients with Parkinson’s disease are known to have less than normal glutathione levels in their central nervous system.

N-acetyl cysteine has also been shown to be helpful in the treatment of various infections such as influenza and AIDS. Research shows that when taken regularly, it lowers the severity of flu symptoms in adult individuals and can significantly improve immune functions in persons having the AIDS disease.

In studies conducted on laboratory animals, N-acetyl cysteine can be protective against a few carcinogenic agents. Laboratory rats administered with this supplement have demonstrated less lung damage when exposed to cigarette smoke and asbestos than rats that received no treatment at all.

N-acetyl cysteine is considered safe and effective in daily doses of 500 to 1,000 mg. There are very few side effects, but may involve mild abdominal cramping or bloating.

You can get N-acetyl cysteine anywhere that sells nutritional products. Even though this supplement requires no prescription to get it, it is always a good idea to check with your health care provider before taking this supplement to treat any specific condition.