New Perspectives On Drug Rehabilitation
This is the first in a series of monthly bulletins focused on innovations in drug rehabilitation and emerging data regarding drugs and addiction. I welcome feedback and content suggestions. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are we ignoring an effective tool for rehabilitation?
America's search for cures to our economic troubles has yet to encompass something that costs our country half a trillion dollars each year: substance abuse. That's more in one year than we have spent on 9 years of war in Afghanistan, more in two years (by $200 billion) than we've spent on 9 years of war in Iraq.
If we're serious about reducing the deficit, improving drug rehabilitation would seem to be a top priority. Need more convincing? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs can yield a return to society of as much as $12 through reductions in health costs, drug-related crime, criminal justice costs and theft.
If these kinds of savings are possible with the current reversion rate of 40-60 percent, what might be possible if results could be improved? One strategy that deserves more attention is the use of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in drug rehabilitation.
There is evidence to support the view that above-RDA intakes may be needed in addiction therapy for several reasons: 1) To address deficiencies from poor diet and the impaired absorption and increased excretion caused by drug use; 2) To repair damage to neurotransmitter function caused by drug use; 3) To supply increased requirements needed to metabolize and eliminate drugs as a chronic toxic exposure; 4) To address specific unmet requirements that may exist in each individual case.
It has been well documented that alcoholics are often malnourished, and above-RDA doses of specific vitamins are a standard clinical component of alcohol withdrawal and treatment regimens. Although abusers of illicit drugs are also likely to be malnourished, it is not as common for programs for them to include micronutrient therapy.
Though it may not always be viewed as such, substance abuse is a form of chronic chemical exposure. This can stress the body's detoxification systems and cause extra expenditure of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
According to the American Dietetic Association, "Improved nutritional status can make treatment more effective, while reducing drug and alcohol craving, thereby preventing relapse." It urges that, "Nutrition professionals should take aggressive action to ensure involvement in treatment and recovery programs."
This suggestion deserves attention: a comparison between treatment results for rehabilitation programs that include a micronutrient component shows that their success rates were consistently better than the national averages.
In view of the enormous costs to society that are associated with untreated addiction, micronutrients deserve more attention from the rehabilitation community; in fact, it could be argued that this should be a public health priority.
For a whitepaper reviewing 50 years of literature on this subject, click here.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Anna Grace Tagliaferro Zaucha, MD is the medical director for Narconon International.