Vitamin D may treat (opioid) “addiction”

Interesting article, which corroborated the role of vitamin D as an anti-stress hormone. As vitamin D is an actual steroid, it is expected to have a role as neurosteroid as well, and as such influence behavior and habits, including pathological ones such as “addiction”. Why do I put “addiction” in quotes? Mostly because the totality of available evidence (outside of paid Big Pharma propaganda taught in medical schools) strong suggests there is no such thing as addiction, but rather such behavior is just a desperate attempt at self-medicating when an organism is under stress. In other words, trying to relieve a state of high cortisol (and serotonin) and low dopamine, even if the substances consumed (drugs, alcohol, etc) or behavior engaged in (gambling, racing, sex, etc) is dangerous and detrimental in the long-run. The (in)famous Rat Park experiment performed in Canada several decades ago provided indisputable proof that organisms will do just about anything to remediate stress and “addiction” is one such (suboptimal) remedy that the organism uses for only as long as the stress is present. Take away the stress and the “addiction” disappears.

Anyways, the study below demonstrates that deficiency of vitamin D increases risk of developing (opioid) addiction, which is not surprising considering that vitamin D antagonizes cortisol and inhibits serotonin synthesis. Conversely, when vitamin D levels are low it has been found by multiple (both animal and human) studies that baseline cortisol increases, dopamine decreases, and 5-HIAA (a metabolite of serotonin) increases. In other words – vitamin D deficiency mimics stress, which explains why organisms in such a state would be more prone to developing an (opioid) addiction. In support of this hypothesis, treating the vitamin D deficient animals with vitamin D reversed their “addictive” behaviors.

“…In the Science Advances paper, Fisher, Kemény and a multidisciplinary team from several institutions addressed the question from dual perspectives. In one arm of the study, they compared normal laboratory mice with mice that were deficient in vitamin D (either through special breeding or by removing vitamin D from their diets). “We found that modulating vitamin D levels changes multiple addictive behaviors to both UV and opioids,” says Kemény. Importantly, when the mice were conditioned with modest doses of morphine, those deficient in vitamin D continued seeking out the drug, behavior that was less common among the normal mice. When morphine was withdrawn, the mice with low vitamin D levels were far more likely to develop withdrawal symptoms. The study also found that morphine worked more effectively as a pain reliever in mice with vitamin D deficiency–that is, the opioid had an exaggerated response in these mice, which may be concerning if it’s true in humans, too, says Fisher. After all, consider a surgery patient who receives morphine for pain control after the operation. If that patient is deficient in vitamin D, the euphoric effects of morphine could be exaggerated, says Fisher, “and that person is more likely to become addicted.” The lab data suggesting that vitamin D deficiency increases addictive behavior was supported by several accompanying analyses of human health records. One showed that patients with modestly low vitamin D levels were 50 percent more likely than others with normal levels to use opioids, while patients who had severe vitamin D deficiency were 90 percent more likely. Another analysis found that patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder (OUD) were more likely than others to be deficient in vitamin D. Back in the lab, one of the study’s other critical findings could have significant implications, says Fisher. “When we corrected vitamin D levels in the deficient mice, their opioid responses reversed and returned to normal,” he says. In humans, vitamin D deficiency is widespread, but is safely and easily treated with low-cost dietary supplements, notes Fisher. While more research is needed, he believes that treating vitamin D deficiency may offer a new way to help reduce the risk for OUD and bolster existing treatments for the disorder. “Our results suggests that we may have an opportunity in the public health arena to influence the opioid epidemic,” says Fisher.