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Enzyme Treatment for Heroin Withdrawal

In the field of addiction treatment, there’s a lot of crystals and snake oil mixed in with trustworthy rehabs and treatment centers. Some facilities use untested, disreputable methods to help patients “get sober,” but have high relapse rates after people leave treatment. Others don’t offer aftercare, or bill insurance without providing any of the services and support they advertised. On the other hand, huge strides have been made in addiction treatment, and we learn more every day about new ways for people to get into recovery.

Also, many of these unorthodox practices—from ayahuasca ceremony to trying heroin withdrawal at home—do work, for some people. Who’s to say what works and what doesn’t?

A New Heroin Detox Treatment?

Nutritionally Assisted Detox is not a new idea in addiction treatment. It’s been around since 1961, but it is reappearing in the recovery landscape. Practitioners of this therapy suggest that, since the addict’s brain and body are depleted of important enzymes in active addiction, they can regain their health by replenishing their body’s supply. The “detox” includes multiple IV transfusions of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD). NAD is a metabolic co-enzyme that structures, repairs, and remodels every cell in the body.

In a healthy, normal body that hasn’t undergone the stress of active addiction, NAD is naturally replenished. However, in active addiction, drug and alcohol abuse causes neuroadaptation—literally, reorganizing the way the brain and body work at the cellular level. Neuroadaptation is the cause of addiction-related brain damage and depletion of neurotransmitters. NAD allegedly undoes some of this damage by bumping up enzyme levels and encouraging cellular repair. Also, during detox, it is said to lessen the effects of withdrawal and eliminate cravings, especially for heroin addicts.

Holistic Medicine or Hokey Pokey?

NAD is administered once a day for 10 days. Each transfusion of enzymes takes up to eight hours. Usually, withdrawal symptoms and cravings begin to subside within the first few minutes of the therapy. Some reports indicate NAD therapy can reduce withdrawal symptoms by 70-80 percent, though there are no hard facts to support this claim. In fact, the majority of evidence about NAD’s effectiveness is anecdotal. On its own, NAD treats only the physical effects of addiction; also, in order to work, the patient must complete every session as scheduled, for 10 days.

Since NAD is still considered “experimental,” it is not covered by insurance. One course of treatment costs $15,000 at some rehabs, which is a high price to pay for many people seeking to get sober. Although there are some success stories, it’s worth pointing out that NAD was just the first stepping stone for many people. Therapy, 12 Step meetings, family support, and other help was needed to address the psychological aspect of addiction and avoid relapse.

Addicted At The Cellular Level?

Dr. David Gatta, a psychologist who specializes in substance abuse counseling and other issues, says, “There’s a real tendency to blame the body for addiction now, whereas we used to blame the mind.” Now that addiction has been identified as a mental illness, not a moral failing, many treatment centers have shifted their focus to the physical aspect of addiction. Yoga, exercise, nutrition, and physically oriented holistic treatments are beginning to take center stage. NAD falls into that category, since its only effect is physical: the alleviation of withdrawal symptoms.

Although some people claim that NAD has a 90% success rate, it’s not clear how patients who used NAD exclusively fare in the long-term. Anecdotally, the results are positive. One year later, a man who was treated at Emerald Neuro-Recovery Center in Carmel, Indiana, is still sober. The Center has treated 24 patients since it opened and says it has an 87% success rate. Compared to regular drug treatment, which has a success rate of 40-60%, depending on the rehab center, that’s significant. However, with such a small number of patients and a short timeline, more data is needed to get a better picture of whether NAD can stand alone as an addiction treatment method.

Searching For New Treatment Methods

When it comes to sobriety, there’s no wrong way to get there. People get sober in many ways. What’s important isn’t how, but why. Finding the courage to get help for addiction is a huge step, and whether that starts with a trip to a detox clinic or an infusion of cell-repairing enzymes, it’s a step that needs to be taken in order to enter recovery.

As the drug epidemic continues, many people are still desperate for help. More rehab centers—some reputable, and some shady—are cropping up to address the demand for treatment. We understand that your choice of treatment center really is a life and death decision, and how critical it is to find a rehab that is honest, reputable, and reliable. We personally vet every rehab center on our website. We don’t recommend places that we wouldn’t go ourselves, or wouldn’t trust our children to. If you are looking for help for addiction for yourself or a family member, please feel free to contact us. We’re here to help.