Nutritional Program for Drug Detoxification

  • Pharmaceutical – Prescription and OTC Drugs
  • Other Drugs – Street and Recreational
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Sugar
  • Drug Detoxification Nutrient Program

  • This program is important because it concerns problems common to a large number of people in our culture. Not just drug addicts but most people are habituated or addicted to one or more substances. Drug detoxification involves two main processes changing our abusive habits and releasing the drugs from our lives.

    Drug use is a huge problem; we are a drug culture, and literally thousands of substances are used extensively. Western medicine is likewise a drug-oriented system. We consume billions of pills yearly and spend many billions of dollars on them. These figures do not even include the everyday use of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

    Some preliminary concepts can help us prepare for drug detoxification. Most important is the relationship between states of being, symptoms, and our use of drugs. If we are slow or hyper, we may stimulate or sedate ourselves chemically. If we view a symptom as a problem, we may want to correct it with a drug. Although for immediate relief this may seem very practical, it is theoretically ludicrous and shows a complete misunderstanding of the design of the human body. Drug use and drug therapy rarely fix anything. Our symptoms are a warning sign of something wrong for which we must work to determine the cause. Symptoms are not the real problem, but results of deeper processes and causes. They are not an error on the part of our body; our body rarely errs. It responds to how we treat it. We must correct our internal imbalance by listening to our body and avoiding dietary and lifestyle abuses, which means limiting drug use.

    It is very important not to devitalize our body if we can possibly avoid it. The first step for many people is to learn again to care for and love themselves and reinforce their desire to live. Much of drug use, at least the habitual type, is part of a syndrome of self-destruction. Pharmaceutical prescriptions and most over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are designed to help us feel better, yet often they are used for problems resulting from abusive or misguided habits.

    Addiction is a tremendous personal, social, and economic problem in our culture. It both supports and drains our total economy. Our society and advertising world promote addiction. It begins with sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and many foods, such as milk products. Our behavior regarding foods, particularly sweet ones, is conditioned very early and is very difficult to change.

    Later, the coffee break becomes a reward, a refueling and rest stop in the intense workday. The caffeine and sugar stimulants are the prime mind/nerve provocateurs to continue to work more. Nervousness and hyperactivity are often associated with productivity, though they are really not comparable to steady, healthful energy; trying to perpetuate that artificially stimulated productivity eventually leads to reduced capacity, time lost from work, wasted money, and increased illness.

    All drugs have some toxicity. Most have both physiological and psychological actions and addictive potential, with accumulated toxicity and some withdrawal symptoms when we try to give them up. Before going through any drug or chemical detoxification, it is wise to prepare and plan for it before we proceed. This is important both physically and psychologically. It is definitely helpful to have the aid of a physician, therapist, family member, or good friend for support. The withdrawal phase can be the most difficult time, and this can vary from a day or two to a week or more. It is often hard to differentiate the physical sensations from the underlying psychological involvement. The withdrawal phase is tied fairly closely to the drug addiction – the worse the withdrawal, the more likely we are to continue to use the chemical to prevent withdrawal. A psychological dependency easily develops.

    After initial withdrawal, which is often tied to detoxification – that is, the natural release of the stored chemicals from the body – we need willpower and commitment to our original plan for eliminating the particular substance from our life. We also need to work on new behavior patterns, avoiding exposure, such as the people and places associated with our previous problem substances, at least for a while, until we develop more deep-seated new habits so that we have the strength to say no when we are exposed again. Behavior modification therapy can be very helpful.

    Drug problems are common, and there are really no stereotypical drug addicts; they can be the affluent businessman, the housewife, the down-and-out “street” person, or anyone under pressure or with unmet psychological needs. Drug and substance abuse are an individual, family, and worldwide problem that can affect young and old, men and women.

    The general approach in dealing with drug detoxification begins with admitting that there is a problem. Then we must gather our desire and willpower to accomplish what we set forth to do in our mind and heart. We really have to want to change. Sadly, this incentive often arises from illness or crisis rather than a true desire to be healthy, but many of us may enter through that door and still follow a healthy path.

    In addition to a decisive plan and the necessary psychological support, a wholesome, well-balanced diet and nutritional supplements can be very helpful. During the transition, fasting or at least a cleansing diet is helpful to enhance purification and lessen the severity and length of the withdrawal period. I have seen people make incredible lifestyle changes with a week-long cleanse. It is very empowering and allows them to clarify their plan and goals while strengthening their willpower.

    The key to dietary detox support is in increasing alkalinity and reducing acidity. Cravings and withdrawal are more intense with an acid state generated from an intake of acid-forming foods such as meats, milk products, and refined flours and sugars. All the fruits and vegetables are alkaline-forming in the body. A fruit and vegetable diet, juices and soups, or even water can be used temporarily. See the previous General Detoxificationprogram for more complete instructions.

    I do not suggest doing withdrawal and drug detox during illness or pre- or postsurgery, although sometimes it is unavoidable. Pregnancy is another concern, where it is so important to clear all unnecessary drugs, even over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. We must be careful, and a physician’s help may be needed, but usually the basic daily abuses can be tapered off and eliminated over a few days.

    Some supportive nutrients can be very helpful during drug elimination. Water is most essential to help clear our cells, tissues, organs, and body. “Dilution is the solution to pollution” is still one of my favorite cleansing statements, along with “Elimination equals Illumination,” by Bethany Arg Isle. Extra fiber can also aid colon function and pull more toxins from the body.

    A general increase in nutritional supplements is usually helpful in detoxification from drugs, with or without a change in diet, though better with, of course. Vitamin C and the other antioxidants-A and zinc, E and selenium, L-cysteine and other amino acids are all useful, in addition to the basic vitamins and minerals. Glutathione, which is formed from L-cysteine in the body, helps to decrease the toxicity of most drugs and chemicals through its function in detoxification enzymes.

    An orthomolecular approach to drug detoxification includes the B vitamins, minerals, a high amount of vitamin C, antioxidants, and L- amino acids. These work better with a food diet than with fasting, so the alkaline, fruit-and vegetable-based diet is best used with a high nutrient intake. With a more liquid diet, minimizing supplements is suggested, maybe using just vitamin C, some minerals, and an antioxidant formula, along with some herbs and chlorophyll.

    Many people find the use of herbs beneficial in drug detoxification. Goldenseal root powder is probably the most important here. Its alkaloids help clear toxicity, and it stimulates the liver to better perform its detox function. One large or two small capsules three times daily before meals for one or two weeks can be helpful. Herbs that work as laxatives, diuretics, and blood or lymph cleansers can also be used in specific formulas. Valerian root and other tranquilizing herbs may also be very useful during excitatory withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety or insomnia. Chlorophyll, taken as tablets or liquid, has a

    mild purifying and rejuvenating quality.

    Pharmaceutical – Prescription and OTC Drugs

    Any of the thousands of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs currently available and in common use can be toxic, especially when too much is used or when they are used for too long. Aspirin and other anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving drugs, tranquilizers, and anti-depressants are all in very common use.

    A key to preventing the need to detoxify from drugs is to not use them in the first place. Many people are turning to more natural therapies and remedies as better preparations and experience improve the efficacy of these modalities. Nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, and homeopathic medicines are commonplace substitutes for drugs; when used correctly, they support our body’s natural healing powers and correct the internal organ/function/energy imbalances. Acupuncture is also helpful in this regard, as is chiropractic therapy. Massage and other body mechanics can be supportive both by allowing the body to heal naturally and by stimulating elimination during detoxification periods.

    OTC products, more easily abused than pharmaceuticals because they can be readily obtained, are usually less toxic. Some symptoms commonly treated with the use of OTC drugs and the drugs commonly used are as follows.

    Symptoms Drugs
    headacheaspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen
    fatiguecaffeine, nicotine, No-Doz
    insomniatranquilizers, antihistamines
    colds, flusantihistamines, decongestants
    allergiesantihistamines, decongestants
    constipationlaxatives, lubricants
    diarrheaKaopectate, fibers
    indigestionantacids, Pepto-Bismol, Alka-Seltzer
    excess weightstimulants

    Many of these drugs can create physical dependency, especially when there is a chronic problem or when there are withdrawal or rebound symptoms, as there are in allergy conditions, sinus congestion, and constipation. If problems persist we should consult our doctor or healer to help us determine the underlying cause and to correct that. If stress and worry are the cause of insomnia or if our poor food choices lead to our gastrointestinal symptoms, we need to handle these problems. Herbs or homeopathics often can be a more gentle remedy for some of these symptoms.

    Aspirin and caffeine are two big OTC drug problems. Caffeine will be discussed thoroughly in the next program. Aspirin, a valuable drug, has been in common use for many decades, though its use is now decreasing because of its association with stomach irritation, allergies, Reye’s syndrome, its effect on blood clotting, and the availability of acetaminophen and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Still, acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), derived from coal tar, has over 50 million regular users in this country, and the average annual intake of aspirin products is more than100 per person per yearover 20 to 25 billion tablets of this one agent alone used every year. Many aspirin products also contain other analgesics (pain relievers) and caffeine. Aspirin is also an anti-inflammatory agent and can reduce fevers (which is not always good, since fevers can be a natural healer), and it does this better than its counterpart acetaminophen (Tylenol, Datril). Both drugs are now commonly used as people experience more pain and degenerative, inflammatory disease, including cardiovascular disease where aspirin is used in regular low dosages to reduce blood clotting effects. Anti-inflammatory drugs in general are fairly easy to eliminate if we can eliminate the pain for which they are taken.

    Stronger pain drugs include the new anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen (Medipren, Motrin), which has many possible side effects. Its use also can be avoided with correction of the problems that cause the symptoms. Even stronger prescription narcotics, such as codeine (found in many formulas; aspirin or acetaminophen with codeine is very commonly used); hydrocodone (Percodan); propoxyphene (Darvon); or even Demerol or morphine may be prescribed. All of these narcotic drugs are much more addictive, and thus more difficult to stop using.

    Other Drugs – Street and Recreational

    Street or “recreational” narcotics are also a big problem. These include opium, methadone, and especially heroin, and more recently “ice,” “crack,” “crunch,” and “cripple.” Over a half million heroin users are addicted to and possessed by this intravenous drug, which mixes euphoria with depression. This drug also reduces the appetite and libido, so food and sex, love and nurturing often lose importance, and users live just for the drugs. Specialized care is needed for narcotics withdrawal, and this section’s suggestions may offer support during this process.

    Using sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and antidepressants is another way to deal with life’s frustrations and challenges. Valium has been a very popular drug, the most popular for a few years, but new drugs keep entering the race, and Ativan, Xanax, Halcion, and others are now also very popular. Barbiturates are less common now; they used to be the main sedatives but now are probably more frequently used on the street. All these drugs that slow us down, mainly by depressing our nervous system, act like alcohol, so review the Alcohol Detoxification
    program along with this one if these drugs are an interest or problem.

    Stimulants, such as the amphetamines and cocaine, are on the opposite end of the spectrum from sedatives. They are very stimulating but also cause dramatic fluctuations in energy. They excite the nervous system and cause euphoria or irritability with resultant loss of appetite, hypersensitivity, and insomnia, usually followed by fatigue and depression. The amphetamines, such as Dexedrine, Benzedrine, methamphetamine, and Desoxyn, are somewhat less of a problem than they were in prior years (probably because there are better ways of getting high or losing weight), yet for anyone with an addiction to “uppers,” they have a very dangerous and difficult problem. As with the narcotics, amphetamine withdrawal and detoxification often require professional assistance, although some people manage to do it on their own. The stimulant drugs in general are more deadly than most others, including narcotics, so it is very important to eliminate them if we want to live long and healthy lives.

    A general detox program for a pharmaceutical or OTC drug involves first familiarizing yourself with its effects, side effects, addiction potential, and withdrawal symptoms (preferably, we do this before we use it). If we are using a drug, we must be able to acknowledge when we are addicted. We can tell this by some of the following characteristics:

    We need the drug to function.
    We need it in ever higher doses.
    We need it more frequently.
    If we miss a dose, we begin to feel sick.
    We have a history of abuse or addiction.

    Some drugs are dangerous to stop. Going “cold turkey” from sedatives, stimulants, and narcotics can have serious consequences, including seizures. Tranquilizers may be needed to get us through the withdrawal phase. Overall, a plan should be made with the help of a professionnal, such as consulting a medical doctor of psychologist to help in withdarawal.

    If we are slowing down or want to evaluate our drug use, we can record the dosage, time of use, and any reactions we may have and how long after taking the drug they occur. When we do stop, we should get busy to take our mind off

    the drug. There are now many more doctors and facilities, including hospital detox centers, that can help us deal with drug problems. Other therapies, such as counseling, biofeedback, behavior modification, and acupuncture, may help us in our plan to clean up our life and lessen our drug uses.

    A few commonly used drugs will be discussed now cocaine, marijuana, and the most common addiction, sugar. The other important drug habits, namely caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine abuse and addictions will be discussed thoroughly in subsequent programs.


    Cocaine came into popular use in the United States with the introduction of Coca-Cola, when that drink had a lot of zip and addictive qualities. Since coca leaf extract was removed from Coca-Cola in 1903, the high sugar and caffeine content has been able to maintain the stimulating and addicting qualities, along with its depleting nature.

    Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant that produces an excited state shortly after it is inhaled (“snorted,” “tooted”) and a mild euphoria that lasts for 10­20 minutes, associated with an all-powerful “I can take on the world” kind of deluded feeling. It also increases the heart rate and blood pressure and reduces the appetite and financial reserve.

    Cocaine is extremely addicting, both psychologically and physically (over time of course, not with one try; however, its withdrawal can be seen after any usage) and is very costly, often causing financial ruin to the addicted and his or her family. It can cause nasal, sinus, and mucous membrane damage when used intranasally, as it commonly. It causes a cycly of excitability and depression that
    is often balanced with sedatives and then more stimulants. Speedballs (cocaine and heroin) and free basing (smoking it) are both extremely dangerous.

    Cocaine withdrawal can be very difficult, particularly psychologically (the opiates, for example, seem to be more physically addicting).

    Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms

    craving runny nose depression
    anxietynasal irritationapathy
    sleeplessnessmuscle achesseizures
    irritabilityweight gain

    With a good program, these symptoms can be minimized. An alkaline diet with lots of liquids, fruits, and vegetables and small amounts of whole grains and protein is helpful. Multivitamin/minerals with additional vitamin C and some antioxidants can smooth the withdrawal and support the healing transition.

    For cocaine detoxification, as with healing from any drug, first we must acknowledge that we have a problem and decide to do something about it. We should get rid of all the drugs and paraphernalia and drop friends and associates that are tied to our drug problem. We can seek (and accept) the support of our spouse, friends, or relatives if we are comfortable with that. For actual withdrawal, we should prepare for symptoms with the aforementioned nutrients and the support of a professional. Tranquilizer drugs may be needed for a few days or longer, but these must be handled sensitively, as one addiction can easily replace another. Psychological counseling and/or a support group can help prevent any new addictions. Often it is helpful to become “addicted” to health for a while until we can work with our addictive personality, which can withdrawal, we should stay busy and exercise as much as possible, and stay away from parties where the problem drug may be used. Those who have a problem with cocaine or are tempted to use it again should talk to someone or check into a cocaine detox center. They can also call 800-COCAINE, a national line to help with this problem.

    Dare I?
    Dare I bend my brain on that Night Queen Cocaine
    notice me…
    I’m what you used to be
    before you covered the door to your heart
    with that lie, but now all you do is count
    up how much you can buy
    Composted Brains
    Night Queen Cocaine
    She’ll suck you dry,
    she’ll pass you by
    that Night Queen Cocaine.
    —Bethany ArgIsle


    Cannabis sativa (and indica), or marijuana, is the most commonly used illegal drug in the Western world. In the United States, it has become a megabusiness. For many years, it was thought to be fairly innocuous, but now most medical authorities believe that marijuana is not a harmless drug at all and that with regular use it can lead to many problems, both acute and chronic.

    Of course, most things in moderation tend not to create any major problems, but cannabis is commonly abused and can be habit forming and psychologically addicting, with some mild physical withdrawal potential. The biggest concern is with children or teenagers it tends to generate a nice relaxed feeling, but this “laid back” sensation may create an apathetic and irresponsible attitude toward life.

    Marijuana “herb” probably has some positive medical potential. It is a good tranquilizer with fewer side effects than most. It has been shown to aid in general pain relief, and in glaucoma, it lowers the eye pressure; marijuana generally increases sensory awareness to our body and environment. However, it is not readily available for medical use.

    Another side effect with regular marijuana smoking is that it can cause lung irritation and bronchitis, with an
    associated higher incidence of respiratory infections than in nonsmokers. Some preliminary studies suggest that it may even cause cancer (such as testicular cancer in men), but that would probably require excessive and/or long-term use. Further research is needed to evaluate this relationship and to differentiate the drug effect from that of possible pesticide exposure. Marijuana also has an effect on fertility. In men, it causes reduced testosterone levels, which may be associated with lack of aggressiveness, and can also reduce sperm count. In women, it lowers levels of prolactin, related to uterine function and breastfeeding, and is associated with irregular menstrual cycles.

    Marijuana can also be an adrenal drain, lessening our ability to handle stress, and many regular cannabis smokers have associated hypoglycemic problems. The initial effect of smoking marijuana is an increased blood sugar. The “munchies” that are associated with “getting stoned” may be related to low blood sugar and reduced liver glycogen storage, setting up a craving for food, especially sweets. There is also some suggestion that marijuana sedates some of our immune functions, and I have
    classified it as an immune suppressant.

    There can be emotional changes with both the smoking of and withdrawal from marijuana. Apathy or lack of motivation is common, though many people feel energized when stoned. Irritability and hostility are also common. Other personality changes are possible. Besides a craving to smoke, withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, hyperactivity, insomnia, anorexia, and depression.

    For marijuana detoxification, as with other drugs, we must first decide that it is a problem and plan to stop, seeking support from companions. Avoid “pothead” friends and get rid of the “stuff” and associated paraphernalia. The tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s active ingredient, gets stored in the body fat and liver, so as we detox, some of the withdrawal symptoms or flashbacks may surface, but usually they are pretty mild. With exercise, sweats, or weight loss, the fat will release toxins, but this is also helpful for a faster clearing. It is wise with marijuana withdrawal to avoid other drugs, tranquilizers, and cigarette smoke and to know and believe that we can stop it. As with alcohol and other only mildly toxic drugs, people seem to be able to use it occasionally for social or relaxation reasons, but when it becomes a regular habit, it is wise to avoid it completely.


    I wanted to include sugar in this program because I think it is easily the most commonly addictive food/drug worldwide. The traditional Chinese health system views the desire for sugar, or the sweet flavor, as a craving for the mother energy, a craving representing a need for comfort or security, whereas a desire for spicy or salty flavored foods might represent looking for the father energy or yang strength.

    Although sugar addiction is common, for many people the craving is cyclical and usually mild (withdrawal also is usually mild physically), yet periodic strong cravings are possible. For those who are more sensitive to refined sugar, or any sweeteners, or for those who consume it in large amounts many times daily, many symptoms of abuse and withdrawal may occur.

    Many nutritional authorities feel that the high use of sugar in our diet is a major nutritional culprit in disease. This includes sugar in all forms – from pure white beet or cane sugar, soda pops, and candies to honey and fruit juices. Sugar often replaces other, more nutritious foods, and it weakens our tissue health and body resistance. Microorganisms and insects love sweet, simple sugar foods, and a sweet diet allows greater infestation with bacteria, fungi, and parasites, and then will support their growth, which may weaken our immunity. Reducing our entire dietary sugar load is important.

    Sugar Abuse and Withdrawal Symptoms

    headachessugar cravings
    visual disturbanceweakness
    blurry visioninability to concentrate

    If we have a problem with sugar abuse, we can decide to change this and cut down on or eliminate this substance by avoiding many of the sweet foods. Many people who abuse sugar do not eat a wholesome diet and have nutritional deficiencies, hypoglycemia, and other problems, both physical and psychological. Let us also not forget the

    more severe problem of “sugar diabetes.”

    There are many other more nutritious nibbles to replace sugary foods. These include popcorn, rice cakes, vegetable sticks, fruits, nuts, seeds, and unsweetened granola. We should clear our house of unhealthy sweetened foods. Once sugar has been removed from the diet, it is still possible to use it again, but only as occasional treats, as it is not as readdicting as many stronger drugs. Many people who have kicked the sugar habit find that they no longer tolerate sugar very well.

    Avoid Sugar Foods

    candywhite sugarcake
    soda pop fructose cookies
    ice creammaple syrupdoughnuts
    artificial juiceshoneyliqueurs
    fruit juiceschewing gumwine

    Nutrients that can help reduce the sugar craving and help in sugar withdrawal are the B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, the trace mineral chromium, and amino acid L-glutamine. Chromium is the central molecule of glucose tolerance factor, which helps insulin work more efficiently at removing sugar from the blood and nourishing the cells. The amino acid L-glutamine, which can be used directly by the brain, has also been helpful in reducing sugar (and alcohol) cravings. A diet that is rich in whole grains and other complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and protein foods can also help stabilize the blood sugar and minimize the desire for sugar.

    There are many other addictions to be aware of. We all find something to latch onto in order to feel connected. It is important to stay aware of these patterns so that we can step out of our dependency and gain perspective on our habits. Besides addictions to people, such as mother, father, spouse, or friends, many of us are addicted to our kids or animals. Some have addictions to work or money.
    Others are addicted to running around or talking and go through withdrawal when they stop and try to sit still and

    quietly. Still others are the opposite and are attached to inactivity. The telephone, television, and computer are even more common addictions in our technological age.

    I would say that the addictive aspect of drugs and diet is emotional in nature. Dietary flavors, certain foods, and certain feelings we get from them and the drugs that we try are usually conditioned. Often, an ability to stop and see things clearly or to talk about them with a counselor will allow us to make the necessary transition from addiction to safe and balanced use of substances in all aspects of our life.

    The following program is a general one for drug detoxification and for suppport during drug use. The ranges of many nutrients allow varying amounts to be used depending upon needs. During withdrawal, the higher levels may be used, with mid-range levels used during the three to six weeks of detox after the initial withdrawal. Lower ranges may provide basic support during general drug usage.

    Drug Detoxification Nutrient Program

    Water 2­3½ qt.
    Fiber20­40 g.

    Vitamin A10,000 IUs Iron10­20 mg.
    Beta-carotene20,000­40,000 IUs Magnesium400­800 mg.+
    Vitamin D200­400 IUs Manganese5­10 mg.
    Vitamin E200­800 IUs Molybdenum150­300 mcg.
    Vitamin K300 mcg. Potassium100­500 mg.
    Thiamine (B1)25­100 mg. Selenium200­300 mcg.
    Riboflavin (B2)25­100 mg. Silicon50­150 mg.
    Niacinamide (B3) 50­100 mg. Vanadium200­400 mcg.
    Niacin (B3)50­1,000 mg.* Zinc30­60 mg.
    Pantothenic acid (B5)250­1,000 mg.
    Pyridoxine (B6)25­100 mg.
    Pyridoxal-5-phosphate 25­50 mg. L-amino acids1,500 mg.
    Cobalamin (B12)100­250 mcg. L-cysteine250­500 mg.
    Folic acid800 mcg. L-glutamine 250­1,000 mg.
    Biotin300 mcg. Essential fatty acids,2­4 capsules
    Choline500­1,000 mg. or Flaxseed oil2­4 teaspoons
    Inositol500­1,000 mg. Goldenseal root3­6 capsules
    Vitamin C2­10 g.
    Bioflavonoids250­500 mg.
    Calcium650­1,200 mg.+
    Chromium200­500 mcg.
    Copper2­3 mg.
    Iodine150 mcg.

    *Increase dosage slowly.

    +Higher amounts are needed for hyperactive withdrawal states, aches, or cravings.

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    Written by Elson M. Haas MD

    Explore Wellness in 2021