Natural Healing from Drug Abuse: Meth Amphetamines
Q. How can I use natural medicine to heal my body from drug addiction? I am a recovering meth addict. I have been off meth for five years now, but continue to gain weight. It seems like meth abuse destroyed my metabolism. What can I do to lose the weight, and not feel so tired all the time?
A. First and foremost, congratulations for staying off meth. You should be extremely proud of yourself for overcoming such a powerful addiction that tends to be running rampant in our community these days. Recovering from drug addiction truly requires the mind/body/spirit model of medicine that naturopathic philosophy embraces. The mechanical process of withdrawing from heavy drugs can be difficult enough, however to ensure true success and restore your mental and physical health to their optimal conditions; natural medicines such as healing foods, herbs, and supplements can play an important role.
Although quitting meth is the first step, in order to ensure long term success with abstinence, one must address the reason why drugs were turned to in the first place. Counseling and a supportive treatment program such as Narcotics Anonymous or AA are important for preventing relapse. A counselor will help you better understand your addictive tendencies, and a supportive group such as AA will remind you to always abstain from meth.
For those recovering from addictions, I highly recommend the book by compulsive behavior specialist, Mary O’malley, “The Gift of Our Compulsions”. Anyone that has quit drugs to switch to chain smoking, or quit alcohol to turn to compulsive shopping has not addressed the “root cause” of their compulsive behavior. Mary’s book will teach you to learn from your addiction and use your compulsive tendencies as a tool and not a weapon.
Anxiety is often the root cause of addiction. Letting go of worry by placing your life in God’s hands can alleviate much of the anxiety and stress that we tend to place upon ourselves. Establishing a strong spiritual connection, and finding a church or source of spiritual inspiration that works for you is extremely important for the long term big picture of healing from drug abuse.
Naturopathic medicine can be very helpful for restoring the system to a healthier place after the ravages of meth addiction. If I were to see a patient recovering from meth addiction that was consistently putting on weight, I would order some basic blood work to screen for thyroid issues, and other biochemical causes of metabolic imbalance. Liver function tests to rule out damage to the liver are usually included in a standard comprehensive metabolic panel. Although the body is typically pretty resilient, knowing if damage has occurred to the body’s detoxification center is prudent to your long term health. Addressing hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism that may have resulted from chronic meth abuse should help with the weight gain issues, especially for those that are exercising and eating healthy, but still putting on weight.
Meth abuse may have caused your thyroid to burn out, as meth primarily abuses the adrenal glands, and the adrenal glands support the functioning of our thyroid. The thyroid sets our metabolism.
To understand how meth abuse may have affected your hormonal system, think of the adrenal glands like a factory. The factory can only produce so many products at once. Eventually the factory cannot keep up with the demands placed on the system, and the glands can no longer keep up with making all the chemicals that the body depends on for normal functioning.
Some basic adrenal support may be helpful to support the glands while they re-establish the normal production of adrenaline and catecholamines that meth abuse depleted. Some patients may also need to be put on thyroid medication if their TSH is showing hypothyroidism. Fatigue and weight gain are both signs of hypothyroidism.
Adrenal Support Herbs for Meth Recovery
Licorice (glycyrrhiza glabra), Siberian ginseng (eleutherococcus), ashwaganda (withania somnifera)and schisandra tend to be great herbs for those recovering from drug addiction. I would avoid herbs that are over stimulating. The body has been stimulated for too long already, and needs to be nourished and calmed down for the most part.
Although the thyroid is the primary set point for metabolism, the liver is the “fat burner” of the body. Toxic chemicals like crystal meth, cocaine, and other designer drugs are especially hard on the liver. Weight that gathers around the mid section is a classic sign for liver stagnation issues. For those that have had a short stint with drug abuse I would be less concerned. For those that have abused drugs for more than a year, I would do a very slow detox program over an entire year or so. Meth is full of toxic solvents so I would avoid any rapid detox programs and opt for a more gentle nourishing cleanse over a prolonged period. Your body has already been through enough. It does not need to deal with a harsh extreme sudden detox as well.
You can read about foods, herbs, and lifestyle suggestions to support the liver and the natural detoxification of the system in our articles under the detox category to understand the gist of detoxification….
Liver Support Herbs for Meth Recovery
Milk thistle (pictured above), schisandra, turmeric, artichoke, dandelion root, and N-acetyl cysteine (not an herb but an important detoxifier of the system use 600mg twice daily to support phase II detoxification pathways of the liver) are all great for restoring healthy liver function and moving toxins out of the body.
Sweating for Meth Detoxification
Saunas and sweating through exercise are amongst the best ways to remove the body of toxic solvents such as incurred from meth abuse. Saunas should not be used by those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, intolerance to heat, pregnancy, or any other health conditions. For healthy individuals a twenty minute sweat followed by a rinse with cold water can be done daily to promote the detoxification of the harsh solvents used in the production of methamphetamines and street drugs.
Please note the following protocol is simply for example only. This is not individualized naturopathic care. Please work with a physician before implementing any new treatments. Natural medicines, just like prescription medicines come with lists of contraindications, safety concerns, and drug interactions. Please work with a naturopathic physician for a personalized plan.
Sample Naturopathic Protocol for Recovering from Meth Addiction:
- Work with a counselor or therapist to resolve past issues.
- Put your life in God’s hands and find a spiritual connection: church and AA work well for most.
- Read Mary O’Malley’s book “The Gift of Our Compulsions”.
- Deep breathing to manage stress: Five minutes to zen.
- Adopt an organic Whole Foods Diet to cleanse the system, aid detox, and reduce the total load of toxins burdening the system.
- Adrenal support: Licorice root tincture (do not use if you have high blood pressure) Typical dose is about 2 dropperfuls (should be about 60 drops) in a little bit of water, both morning and afternoon. Do not use adrenal support late in the evening. The adrenal glands are active in the morning and the goal is to re-implement a healthy circadian rhythm.
- Liver Support Foods
- High Fiber Diet for weight loss, and to pull toxins from the system while ensuring proper elimination of toxins from the bowel.
- N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) 600mg capsule taken twice daily to support the liver.
- Milk Thistle- 3 capsules twice daily, tincture equivalent, or other liver supportive herbs discussed above.
- Schisandra chinensis capsules two twice daily to support the adrenal glands, cleanse the liver, and reduce anxiety.
- Sweating. Sauna for twenty minutes daily to sweat out toxins. End with a cold shower.
- Drink 60-80 ounces of water daily to stay hydrated and ensure adequate elimination.
- Keep in mind that detoxing may cause headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms initially. Sleep as needed, and be gentle with yourself. Increase the dose of the liver support supplements slowly over time to reduce the likelihood of side effects.
Thank you for stopping by my kitchen table to ask the question. You should be immensely proud of yourself for overcoming the extreme challenges of addiction to meth! Feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments section. I hope my response will inspire you to seek holistic care from a naturopath as well as grant your body the healing time that it needs to restore your health to optimal functioning.
~Dr. Nicole Sundene