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This is an article that talks not just about melatonin and its role in alleviating meth addiction as well as addiction to alcohol, opioids, and prescription medications.
Methamphetamine causes people to go without sleep for hours or sometimes days. As a result, sleep is often disrupted even when a person isn’t taking meth. After a binge, meth addicts may sleep for days at a time. But then, according to research, the inability to sleep may actually be a predictor of relapse. The use of melatonin as an at-home meth addiction treatment has shown some promise in some studies because it can help meth addicts get normal sleep during withdrawals and detox. Though the use of melatonin as a stand-alone treatment may not make it possible for people to kick the habit entirely, research has shown that it can extend periods between relapse. Using melatonin as part of an at-home meth addiction treatment protocol, however, seems like a good idea since no one has ever reported toxic effects or overdose from using it.
Alcohol-dependent individuals may experience sleep disturbances even after they quit drinking. In fact, chronic insomnia is one of the most common complaints that people have after they stop drinking alcohol. As with methamphetamine abuse, the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or to feel wakeful during daytime hours can influence the alcoholic’s ability to abstain from drinking over the course of time. Research has shown that disruptions in the circadian system that’s responsible for the sleep/wake cycle also plays a role in the reward circuitry of the brain. This means that alcohol and drug addicts may be vulnerable to relapse as a result of circadian rhythm problems.
The drug of abuse for people with sleep problems varies from person-to-person apparently, but several studies have demonstrated that “night owls” tend to be more prone to substance abuse (as well as depression). At the onset of adolescence, many teens naturally shift to become “night owls” as a natural physiological process, which interestingly coincides with a developmental time period in life when people are more prone to developing drug abuse problems. Some scientists have proposed that teens are actually experiencing “social jet lag” or poor sleep habits that result from having early mornings at school or work, late sleep on the weekends, and all-nighters at irregular intervals to study or go to parties. The situation is similar to flying overseas and back each week. Research tends to support this view and scientists have found correlations between the degree of social jet lag and the severity of drug and alcohol abuse.
Once an individual starts using alcohol or drugs, the exposure itself can cause additional problems with the sleep/wake cycle. Basically it is a self-perpetuating, vicious cycle, particularly for people who already have a circadian rhythm abnormality at the genetic level. Usually, even after the substance abuse has stopped, circadian rhythm problems persist and often, this can lead to a relapse. So, stabilizing circadian rhythms and the sleep/wake cycle may help decrease vulnerability to relapse in individuals who are addicted to drugs like methamphetamine, opioids, or alcohol.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a pleiotropic signaling molecule. In other words, it’s molecule that has multiple effects on the body and it’s used to signal the body to rest.
When the body is exposed to darkness, the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus turns on the pineal gland (which is otherwise “asleep”) and melatonin production begins. This tends to happen automatically around 9PM. Melatonin circulates in the blood for about 12 hours until the body is exposed to light.
When the body is exposed to light an area of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) signals the body to release cortisol and stop releasing melatonin. The body temperature goes up too in response to light. During the daytime, there is little to no melatonin circulating in the blood.
So, in summary, melatonin helps synchronize important biological rhythms such as the sleep-wake cycle.
Circadian Rhythms and Drug Addiction
A number of studies have demonstrated that alcohol and drug addiction and disruptions in the normal sleep/wake cycle go hand in hand. In other words, a person with a genetic predisposition to sleep/wake cycle disturbances is more likely to become addicted to a drug in an effort to self-medicate. However, a person who is exposed to a drug that causes sleep/wake disturbances may also become addicted to substances that help alleviate the sleep/wake problem.
One study that took place in Cape Town, South Africa looked at the relationship between sleep problems and learning difficulties in adolescents who were using drugs. While adolescents with learning problems were more likely to use inhalants than adolescents without learning problems, adolescents who experienced sleep problems more likely than those without sleep problems to use any of the the following drugs:
- Other illegal drugs
It is worth noting that according to this study, adolescents who had learning difficulties were more likely to have sleep problems.
Though some people are able to take a drug and not become immediately addicted to it, one of the hallmarks of addiction is “loss of control” over when, how much, or how often a person takes the drug. Addiction begins with sporadic use that progresses to consistent use and then onward to intense binging. At this point, people will often begin persistent drug-seeking behaviors. This progression of events often corresponds to changes in the time of day when the person uses the drug. For example, the use of alcohol begins, typically with night-time dosing but progresses to a point where the addict craves alcohol first thing in the morning. Studies on cocaine have revealed that sensitivity to rewards from the drug are higher at certain times of the day than at others. The change in the time of day when a person is most likely to use the drug may be a cross-over point in the addiction process according to scientists.
The brain relies on stimuli like light and food to decide when to be awake and when to be asleep, but drugs of abuse like cocaine, methamphetamine, opioids, and alcohol can give the brain wrong information that hijacks the sleep/wake cycle. Actively addressing sleep issues is an essential part of any at-home treatment protocol for drug addiction no matter what the drug of choice is.
How Melatonin Affects Drug Addiction
When melatonin release doesn’t happen at the appropriate time of night, or if it is present in the bloodstream during daytime hours, people may be more prone to certain addictive behaviors. Some research has shown that supplementation with melatonin may help addicts manage certain behaviors because it can help them get the proper amount of sleep.
Methamphetamine, as an iconic drug that affects the sleep/wake cycle, has a strong impact on the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Melatonin and dopamine both play a role in the regulation of sleep. Indeed, norepinephrine plays a role in regulating melatonin’s synthesis and release from the pineal gland. When dopamine interacts with its receptors it diminishes the effects of norepinephrine which then further diminishes the production and release of melatonin. Taking meth causes the brain to release over 1,200 times the normal amount of dopamine in the brain which results in too little melatonin to fall asleep. Normally, dopamine levels rise slightly toward the end of night and combine with the efforts of norepinephrine to slow melatonin production and wake up the brain.
Melatonin may therefore, in turn, modulate the functioning of the brain’s reward system by affecting neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. Melatonin inhibits the release of dopamine. And some studies have shown that melatonin has a neuroprotective effect on brain tissues exposed to methamphetamine because 1) it is an antioxidant, 2) it is beneficial for the mitochondrial (cellular “batteries”) and 3) the release of dopamine is modulated by taking this supplement.
How to Use Melatonin to Treat Addiction at Home
Taking melatonin at doses of 10 mg per 1 kg of body weight can diminish the rewarding effects of meth (dopamine is the “reward and reinforcement” neurotransmitter) according to some studies. In addition to the antioxidant effects and the beneficial impact of melatonin on mitochondria in brain cells, melatonin may also diminish the toxic effects of extremely high levels of dopamine released into the brain by methamphetamine.
If you or a loved one is addicted to a drug that impacts sleep and you want to treat the addiction at home, create a special evening routine in preparation for sleep. Taking melatonin, valerian root, passionflower, and other herbs to promote sleep can help, but it may also be beneficial to do an evening or afternoon session of relaxation yoga or tai chi. Magnesium supplementation may also help promote sleep. A structured routine that involves the avoidance of bright light after 9:00 PM is an important part of treating drug addiction at home.
Other Important Links:
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