Vitamin C to treat drug addiction?

Hey guys

I got into an argument with a guy online who claims that high dose vitamin C (in the realms of 30 grams per day) can be used to treat most addictions, but specifically at the time he said it would allow heroin users to quit the drug without any withdrawal symptoms, and on top of that it would prevent them being able to get high from using it afterwards.

To me this seems… Unlikely.

His explanations were weird as hell, claiming that all human beings in fact have a massive deficiency in vitamin C which in turn prevents the creation of glutamates, which interferes with dopamine production and that is what leads people to get addicted to opiates.

I did some amount of due diligence on this, because the guy was extremely insistent, and I just can’t stand quacks and frauds preying on desperate people. So I googled around, and I can’t find any evidence for his proposed method of action or any clinic on the planet that uses this treatment which I figured would let me carry the day. But not so.

He had some links to studies that (seem to) back up what he claimed, including:

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) effects on withdrawal syndrome of heroin abusers

Attenuation of Heroin Withdrawal Syndrome by the Administration of High Dose Vitamin C

The Hypoascorbemia-Kwashiorkor Approach to Drug Addiction Therapy: A Pilot Study
Surely not?

The Use of Ascorbic Acid and Mineral Supplements in the Detoxification of Narcotic Addicts
Good grief!

Now - Of course we all know that the existence of a few studies doesn’t make anything true. Over the years there have been studies that seemed to ‘prove’ homeopathy and telepathy and all kinds of stupid things. But the existence of these papers (and there are many more he pointed to) makes me feel a little uncertain.

I certainly don’t believe that this is true; there just does not appear to be any way that vitamin C could have the properties that they claim it does. Equally, if these results were true, how could this not be being used to treat addiction? Since Vitamin C is really cheap and not dangerous it’d be radically preferable to methadone treatment. It certainly seems very unlikely that this is somehow a secret kept from doctors. The guy claimed that the drug companies stop doctors from using this treatment approach (:rolleyes:) which seems pretty unlikely - Surely if this were true, the drug companies couldn’t simply stop every doctor and every clinic everywhere on the planet from using it?

But… At the same time, clearly there is some kind of research going on, or at least someone has gone to some reasonable amount of effort to fake a bunch of different papers on the subject and it’s hard to imagine why they would bother to do that - Vitamin C is cheap and widely available so there doesn’t seem to be an obvious financial motive, so why go to the effort?

Anyway - So I turn this over to you, ladies and gentlemen of the straight dope - What the hell is going on with this?

There is, in fact, one study, that purported to demonstrate a reduction in heroin-withdrawal symptoms by the administration of high dose vitamin C.

I can’t be certain whether this study was conducted in a sound manner, although judging by the abstract, it seems to have been neither randomized nor blinded - kisses of death for any study where subjective outcomes are key (i.e. withdrawal symptoms).

More importantly, I think you can assume that the results were never reproduced by other investigators since no similar studies have been published in 14 years (as far as a quick PubMed search reveals).

That’s exactly what I thought.

Especially given how many pills are involved in 30+ grams of anything - 20 or more per day - seems to make this a prime candidate for any affect being placebo driven.

And yet the fact that there are some number of broadly similar studies would suggest that some number of people at least share the same belief even if they haven’t got any results to back it up.

So I guess what I’m trying to figure out is why anyone else felt that this was a productive area of study? I mean, I know that lots of weird stuff gets researched, but it seems like such an odd thing to look at without some reason. It’s not like this is a direct con job like perpetual motion, or something that existed prior to modern medicine like homeopathy. It’s not attached to a particular belief system involving medicine either, it just kinda popped up for no readily apparent reason.

So does anyone have any idea where this came from?

There’s a lot of quackery around ultra-high doses of vitamin C. A lot of it dates back to Linus Pauling who was one of the main progenitors of what eventually became known as megavitamin therapy.

When you’ve got a double Nobel-laureate behind your junk science the woo is very strong indeed.

Vitamin C is available in powder form.

30g a day in powder is still quite a lot of powder though. The studies say you take it every six hours so you’re talking about swallowing a table spoon of the stuff with every meal. And that’s kinda what I meant - You can see that you have a shed load of ‘medicine’ to take, way more than just a tablet a day, and if you are taking so much of this stuff surely it must be doing something good to you…

Or you just think it’s doing something good to you which is what motivated you to keep taking it.