What is addiction?

Addiction, or Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a condition that involves the uncontrolled use of a substance (such as alcohol, drugs, or tobacco) or a behavior (such as gambling) despite negative consequences.

People with addictions have an intense focus on the substance, which can result in impairment of daily life, in addition to social, physical, and behavioral changes. While the person may be aware of the problem, they cannot stop without intervention.

Symptoms of addiction include, but are not limited to:

  • Decline in attendance and/or performance at work/school
  • Using substances in hazardous situations
  • Sudden mood changes or irritability
  • Engaging in suspicious behaviors
  • Financial problems
  • Withdrawal symptoms


Withdrawal symptoms may occur when a person drastically reduces or completely stops using a substance they are addicted to. Withdrawal symptoms vary based on the person and substance of abuse.

Typical withdrawal symptoms include:

  • drug or alcohol craving
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • sleep issues
  • restlessness
  • aggressive behaviours

A craving state may continue after withdrawal  which results from addiction-induced changes in stress and dopamine pathways.

(Sinha, “Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction.”)

Medical standard of care

Medical standard of care for addiction

The medical approach for addressing addictions involves psychological and pharmacological treatments. This approach does not consider or address nutritional and environmental contributors to addictions.

Medical approaches for treating addictions can include (Underwood, 2020):

  • Medically-assisted detoxification to remove addictive substances from the body
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy to help address negative thoughts
  • Contingency management therapy to reinforce positive behavior
  • Twelve-step facilitation therapy – also known as “12-step programs”
  • Treatment with medications to address substance cravings and addictive behaviours, and improve mood

Medications commonly taken for addiction include:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antidepressants
  • Clonidine
  • Naltrexone

Medications specific to the substance of addiction may be used:

  • Alcohol addiction
    • Acamprosate
    • Disulfiram
  • Heroin and Opiate addiction
    • Methadone
    • Buprenorphine

These medications work by controlling drug cravings, relieving withdrawal symptoms, and preventing relapses.

Why consider an orthomolecular approach?

Why consider the orthomolecular approach?

Addictions have numerous biological contributors that have been identified through nutritional research and clinical practice.

An orthomolecular approach:

  • identifies the drivers and causes of addictions and focuses on understanding them
  • works WITH the body to restore balance and normal function, and considers the person with the condition vs. just the condition
  • addresses nutrient depletions that promote or sustain addictions, whereas medications do not
  • can be done SAFELY in conjunction with most medical interventions

Addiction Center – “Addiction Treatment Medications”

American Psychiatric Association webpage  “Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders”

Sinha, R. (2008). Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1141, 105–130.