After 30 years of intensifying research in psychoneurobiology, it is increasingly clear that addictive diseases are the result, in considerable part, of deficiencies or imbalances in brain biochemistry. Much of this biochemistry can be altered by nutrition.
These words were written by Kenneth Blum, PhD, professor and chief, Department of Pharmacology, Division of Addictive Diseases, Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, the opening speaker at the October meeting of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. In normal individuals, he said, adequate supplies of particular amino acids are used to synthesize the brain neurotransmitters and neuromodulators that modulate behavior and that give us feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This biochemistry he termed the "reward cascade." Many people, however, having inadequate amounts of these neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine, suffer from depression and crave relief from many types of addictants, such as sugar, coffee, alcohol, and cocaine.
A malfunctioning neurotransmitter system, which results in cravings, can be caused by genetic anomalies, long-term stress, or chronic abuse of addictants. In their laboratory Dr. Blum and his colleagues have worked on nutritional restoration of the neurotransmitter reward system. They have developed two nutritional formulations consisting of amino acid precursors of the neurotransmitters and neuromodulators that are deficient in addicts. In one formula they included a vitamin cofactor and in the other a number of vitamin and mineral cofactors needed for the metabolism of the amino acids. Transporting large amino acid molecules across the blood-brain barrier presents a problem. Diet can affect transport (see "Mood and Food" in the Fall 1987 NOHA NEWS). Also, stress and certain drugs, such as cocaine and alcohol, significantly break down the blood-brain barrier. Building on this knowledge, Dr. Blum and colleagues used their nutritional formulations in successful clinical trails with alcohol and cocaine addicts, reducing both drug hunger and departure against medical advice, compared with controls.
In the discussion following the talk, NOHA Professional Advisory Board member Theron G. Randolph, MD, presented his "addiction pyramid," which shows vividly the progression of addiction from its base in foods, such as sugar, up to more-rapidly-metabolized drugs, such as cocaine. See Dr. Randolph’s article "The Addiction Pyramid" in "The Doctor’s Corner."
Depression stemming from withdrawal from any addictive substance was emphasized as a major problem by a number of speakers at the conference. Dr. Blum’s nutritional approach can apparently often block the onset of depression and begin to reinstate a normally functioning "reward cascade."
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XV, No. 1, Winter 1990, page 1.