Healthnotes Newswire (August 14, 2003)—People addicted to opiate drugs, such as heroin and morphine, may be able to reduce their use by taking oral magnesium, according to a new study in Journal of Addictive Diseases (2003;22:49–61). Magnesium may also help cocaine addicts experience fewer cravings for the drug, although it is not clear that it reduces cocaine use.
Opiates and opioids are substances derived from opium or that have opium-like activity in the body. They include opium, heroin, morphine, methadone, codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin®), and meperidine (Demerol®). The medicinal use of opioids is primarily to reduce pain following surgery or trauma, or to treat the pain associated with cancer or other chronic diseases. An overdose of these drugs can cause drowsiness, euphoria, flushed skin, decreased breathing rate, low blood pressure, and low heart rate. Opioid dependence has strong physical and psychological components and withdrawal symptoms are common among those undergoing detoxification treatment. Progressive tapering of doses is often used during treatment to decrease the frequency and severity of withdrawal symptoms.
In the new study, 12 adults in a methadone-maintenance program who were continuing to use illicit opiates and cocaine (as determined by urine testing) were randomly assigned to receive 732 mg per day of magnesium (from magnesium L-aspartate hydrochloride) or placebo for 12 weeks. Urine samples were collected twice a week to measure the frequency of opiate and cocaine use. Questionnaires were given weekly to measure opiate withdrawal symptoms, cocaine cravings, and side effects related to magnesium.
Those taking magnesium tested positive for opiates in 16% of the urine tests, compared with 48% of the urine tests in those taking a placebo. This shows that the group taking magnesium used illicit opiates less frequently. There was no difference in cocaine use between the treatment and placebo groups, but cocaine craving scores were 78% lower in those taking magnesium than those taking placebo. The authors suggested, based on previous animal studies, that the amount of magnesium used may have been too low to affect cocaine use. More research is necessary to determine whether larger amounts of magnesium can reduce cocaine use.
Some studies have shown that drug abuse and other stressors deplete magnesium from the body. The benefits of magnesium in reducing opiate dependence and cocaine cravings may be due to replenishing a deficiency of this mineral. The amount of magnesium used in this study was moderate; however, higher amounts may be necessary for individuals who are more deficient. The form of magnesium used in this study—magnesium L-aspartate hydrochloride—is a particularly well-utilized form of magnesium. It is not known whether other magnesium preparations would have the same beneficial effects in the treatment of drug addiction
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