Nutrients found to improve opioid use disorder treatment

Recent research has revealed that nutritional therapy integrated with opioid use disorder treatment can be equally or more effective than traditional treatments or methadone maintenance programs.

Although opioid use disorders have been traditionally treated with medication-assisted detox and behavioral counseling, medications can generally cause or exacerbate additional negative physical and mental problems. Nutritional therapy can help prevent initiation, escalation or relapse and reverse the development of problems associated with substance use without the negative side effects.

Patrick Cunningham, an associate professor at the College of Health and School of Social Work of the University of Alaska Anchorage, conducted the research that found efficacy in integrating education, psychotherapy, and individualized nutrient rich meal plans into addiction healthcare.

A total of 20 participants were randomly selected from a group of 120 patients in a methadone maintenance program at a narcotic drug treatment center for an opioid use disorder. Blood was drawn at the beginning of the study, three months in, and at the end of 6 months to determine nutritional deficiencies as well as the state of the microbiome of the gut.

Ten of the participants were selected for the experimental group and given an individually specialized nutrition drink consisting of whole foods blended into liquid form. The remaining 10 were in the control group and were given a low-sugar, non-concentrated fruit juice that varied each day. The author chose to administer the nutritional treatment in the same liquid form that the patients are accustomed to receiving their daily methadone.

Cunningham refers to a number of previous studies that found that the use of whole foods or supplement-based nutrition with psychotherapy can restore functioning, assist with detoxification, recovery, prevent relapse and maintain long-term sobriety.

Opioids disrupt the balance of the central nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems as well as neurotransmitters in the brain, causing dependency. A disruption in the prefrontal cortex results in cravings or compulsive drug-seeking behaviors. If cravings are not met when opioids leave the system, mild to potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms can… (continue reading)