When looking into the devastation of something like America’s opioid addiction crisis, researchers often try to identify trends and preventative measures that can help reduce the amount of dependencies. Well, interestingly enough, a study coming out of Massachusetts may have uncovered a link between painkiller habits and a lack of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D, of course, comes from foods like salmon and also the sun itself. It contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties that support the overall immune system, as well as brain cell activity. And it appears as though the cranial components behind this nutrient are what link it to the opioid research.
Dr. David Fisher, a director at Massachusetts General Hospital, was one of the leads behind this recent study, which included prolonged evaluations of lab mice. Dr. Fisher went on record saying that vitamin D deficiencies actually strongly increase one’s cravings for opioids. His team’s research showed that mice with lower levels of the nutrient were much more prone to seek out the narcotics that were presented.
“Our results suggests that we may have an opportunity in the public health arena to influence the opioid epidemic,” Dr. Fisher told The Boston Herald. “The research clearly found that vitamin D deficiencies strongly increase the craving for opioids, potentially putting people at a higher risk for addiction.”
The good news is that it is quite easy to rectify this risk. Dr. Fisher added that once vitamin D levels were corrected in the mice test subjects, their opioid responses returned to normal. And this can be as simple as more exposure to sunlight. Imagine if just a small effort like that could potentially reduce the amount of painkiller addictions across the U.S.
Interestingly, previous research conducted by Dr. Fisher and his team showed that exposure to the sun creates endorphins that activate the same receptors in the brain as opioids. Getting a stronger balance of this nutrient in your system can act as a protector, in a way, lessening the need for the synthetic endorphins.
While the sun is a good starting point for increasing your vitamin D levels, Dr. Fisher also recommended picking up supplements at your local drug store. And he added that he would not be surprised if doctors begin recommending these types of pills for people who have a history of substance abuse.
“Hopefully, increasing vitamin D levels will become a much more common habit after these findings are complete,” Dr. Fisher concluded. “I could see them greatly benefiting people who are either at-risk or are already opioid addicts. Plus, they are cheap and easy and safe.”