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Vitamin D and Opioid Addiction

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A recent study has found that there may be a connection between vitamin D deficiency and the risk of opioid addiction. Learn more about the role of vitamin D in your everyday health and the possible link to opioid use disorder.

What Is Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D is a common nutrient and one of many vitamins necessary for good health. Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium, which keeps your bones strong and prevents bone diseases like osteoporosis. Vitamin D also supports your immune system, nerves, muscles, and other vital parts of your body. The average vitamin D recommendation varies between 10 and 20 micrograms (mcg) per day, depending on factors like age. You can get vitamin D through exposure to the sun and UV rays, some foods, and supplements.

When you don’t get enough vitamin D, you might experience vitamin D deficiency. A lack of this crucial nutrient can damage your health in several ways. Someone with vitamin D deficiency may experience a weakened immune system or become more likely to break their bones.

In addition to the above health risks, a new study suggests vitamin D deficiency might play a role in opioid addiction.

How Does Vitamin D Affect Opioid Addiction

A team of researchers, led by David E. Fisher, MD, Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), published their findings in Science Advances on June 11, 2021. Previous reports showed exposure to UV rays, including those from the sun, produces hormones called endorphins. Endorphins are chemically similar to opioids like morphine and heroin. Animal studies demonstrated that UV exposure led to raised endorphin levels in mice, who then displayed behavior related to opioid addiction.

In this most recent study, researchers examined both humans and animals to understand the link between vitamin D, UV rays, and opioid-seeking behavior. The project’s animal studies found that adjusting vitamin D levels affected opioid-seeking behavior in mice. When a morphine-conditioned mouse had low vitamin D levels, it was more likely to seek out morphine and experience withdrawal symptoms than mice with normal vitamin D levels. Researchers discovered that when they corrected the vitamin D level, the opioid-seeking behavior returned to normal.

The animal data corresponded with the researchers’ human studies. Examining data from patient medical records, the team found a prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among people with opioid use disorder (OUD). Among self-reported opioid use, the researchers saw an inverse and dose-dependent association with vitamin D levels. Their findings suggest people with vitamin D deficiencies may be at a higher risk for developing opioid tolerance and addiction and might experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.

Researchers indicated that vitamin D supplementation might help mitigate those higher risks. They suggested further clinical studies to examine the potential link between vitamin D and opioid addiction.

Get Medication-Assisted Treatment in New England

This recent study suggests new areas of exploration for opioid use disorder treatments. At Health Care Resource Centers (HCRC), we’re proud to provide medication-assisted treatment (MAT), opioid treatment programs (OTPs), and supportive counseling services for people struggling with addiction. Contact our compassionate health care team to learn more about how you can begin your road to recovery today.

Medically Reviewed By:

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

Health Care Resource Centers Clinical Team

The Clinical Team at Health Care Resource Centers is our team of physicians and medical directors within the organization. HCRC is a CARF accredited organization and has been providing addiction treatment services for over 32 years in the New England area.

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