Eliminating alcohol cravings with Niacin

Last week we went over the specific aspects of the form of B3 vitamin called niacinamide - not to confuse which Niacin.

niacin in alcohol recovery

Both forms of vitamin B3 have important therapeutic functions for recovering addicts; especially concerning alcohol and serotonin-mimicking drugs.

Today we will be focusing on Niacin. Many of you will know, that this is the form that causes the intense flushing sensation in the skin. While it is completely harmless, it is important to know what to expect reaction wise, as this is a quite distinct skin-tingling rush.

The niacin flush helps to increase circulation, detoxification and nutrient absorption, so the flush is a welcome reaction.

Interaction of alcohol’s direct toxic effects with malnutrition. In alcoholics, alcohol often replaces other nutrients in addition to that alcohol has direct toxic effects on the gastrointestinal tract and liver, leading to impaired digestion, reduced absorption of nutrients into the blood, and impaired utilization or increased degradation of those nutrients. Niacin helps to repair some of these damages in recovery.

Interaction of alcohol’s direct toxic effects with malnutrition. In alcoholics, alcohol often replaces other nutrients in addition to that alcohol has direct toxic effects on the gastrointestinal tract and liver, leading to impaired digestion, reduced absorption of nutrients into the blood, and impaired utilization or increased degradation of those nutrients. Niacin helps to repair some of these damages in recovery.

Over time your body gets used to Niacin and the flush becomes less. The flushing sensation is clinically called Erythema. It occurs as a result of dilation of the capillaries that service the skin and usually only persists for max one hour. The red skin flush is tied to prostaglandin D2 release stimulated by Niacin.

How much Niacin should you take?

500 mg of Niacin (also called nicotinic acid) has shown to help reduce the craving for alcohol in persons afflicted with alcoholism.

Furthermore, niacin also helps to reduce the toxic effects of nicotine in cigarette smokers.

However, this nutrient is not to be taken permanently in larger doses as it interferes with a liver enzyme that helps to manufacture needed cholesterol for optimal health. You use this nutrient short-term therapeutically in the recovery process to get back to balance and then you switch over to a maintenance program which is quite a different strategy.

References:

Ind Psychiatry J. 2013 Jul-Dec; 22(2): 100–108.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014 Jul;38(7):1829-31.

J Nutr Biochem. 2013 Aug;24(8):1520-8.