Could Nutritional Therapy Replace Methadone Maintenance Therapy For Opioid Addiction?
An associate professor at the College of Health and School of Social Work of the University of Alaska has designed a project that combines nutritional therapy with other treatments for opioid use disorder. He proposes that this approach can be just as effective (or more effective) than methadone maintenance therapy.
Traditionally,opioid use disorder has been treated with opioid replacement therapy, medication-assisted detox and psychotherapy. However, some medications can cause or increase negative mental and physical symptoms.
Patrick M. Cunningham, author:
“This research proposal will concentrate upon the physical health of the person with addiction, noting that addiction is a very complicated process with many layers and ramifications impacting individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.”
Cunningham believes that nutritional therapy can prevent initiation, escalation, and relapse, and also counteract the development of conditions related to substance abuse without unwanted side effects. Moreover, it is advantageous to combine education, psychotherapy, and individual nutrition plans with health care for substance abuse.
About The Proposal
For the research project, twenty subjects will be culled from a group of 120 patients undergoing a methadone maintenance program at a drug treatment facility for opioid use disorder. Bloodwork will be taken at the study’s onset, at three months, and at the end of six months to identify nutritional deficiencies and the status of gut microbes.
Half of the subjects are to be selected for an experimental group and be given a personally customized nutrition drink containing whole foods blended into liquid. The other half will be given a low-sugar fruit juice that changes every day.
Why Nutrition For Addiction?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, persons with substance abuse disorders are often nutritionally deficient because of body changes that result from substance use and addiction. Other studies have also revealed that substance use hinders the body’s ability to absorb consumed nutrients.
Opioids negatively affect the body and mind by altering the balance between the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, respiratory tract, digestion, and neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain. Changes in the prefrontal cortex cause cravings and compulsive, addiction-like behaviors. When cravings are not satisfied, withdrawal symptoms often occur and can cause or worsen co-occurring conditions.
Cunningham believes that the results of the study will show that nutrients assist the mind and body in a number of ways, such as improving the function of biochemicals and neurotransmitters and enhancing metabolism. They will also bolster the defense system, balance blood sugar, and increase good digestion.
Critically, Cunningham notes that nutrients reduce cravings, positively alter medical and addiction treatment outcomes, increase overall healthiness, foster social function, and will improve the patients’ well-being and quality of life – all sans unwanted side effects.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology