man with trigeminal neuralgia pain

Home Remedies for Trigeminal Neuralgia

man with trigeminal neuralgia pain

Do you suffer from trigeminal neuralgia (TN)?

 

Are you looking for a home remedy to help with the symptoms?

 

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerves in the face. These nerves, also called the 5th cranial nerves, are composed of three branches. The three branches V1(ophthalmic), V2(maxillary), and V3(mandibular) are responsible for transmitting nerve impulses from the face to the brain. They also assist with motor functions such as chewing. Trigeminal neuralgia, also known as Fothergill’s disease, usually occurs in those fifty years of age and older and is more common in females.

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

lady with ice pack on side of face

Trigeminal Neuralgia Symptoms

  • Electric shock-like feeling on one side of the face.
  • Pain may be caused by applying makeup, brushing teeth, chewing, or touching the face.
  • Painful attacks may become more frequent and worsen over time.
  • Pain attacks may last from seconds to a few minutes.
  • Pain that doesn’t respond to traditional pain medication.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Spontaneous facial pain.
dentist working on patients mouth

Causes of Trigeminal Neuralgia

We are not certain as to what causes trigeminal neuralgia. We think it is the result of trigeminal nerve compression. Blood vessels can press against the nerve and if the nerve is damaged, pain may occur. Other possible causes are:

  • Facial trauma.
  • dental procedures.
  • Tumors or cysts.
  • Malformed blood vessels.
Blue medication capsules

Trigeminal Neuralgia Treatment

Medications: Traditional painkillers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are generally ineffective against trigeminal neuralgia. Prescription medications are often utilized, specifically anticonvulsants. These include:

Carbamazepine (Tegretol)

Phenytoin (Dilantin)

Gabapentin (Neurontin)

Topiramate (Topamax)

Side Effects of Anticonvulsants: The main side effects of these types of medications are drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. Please consult your physician or pharmacist for more specific information.

Surgical Treatment: There are several surgical options available to treat trigeminal neuralgia.

Microvascular Decompression Surgery (MVD): This procedure works by inserting a cushion between the vessel and part of the trigeminal nerve. An incision is made behind the ear and a small portion of the skull is removed. This procedure helps approximately 80% of sufferers and is thought to be the longest-acting treatment. Risks of MVD include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Facial numbness
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Paralysis
  • Leaking of CSP

Rhizotomy: This is an outpatient procedure and is also effective in about 80% of patients. The patient is placed under general anesthesia and a hollow needle is placed through the cheek. The affected nerves are treated with heat (electrical current) or chemicals (glycerin or glycerol). This procedure takes about 30 minutes and pain relief is immediate.

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Prevention:  If you know things that cause trigeminal neuralgia flare-ups, avoid them. Examples include windy weather, spicy foods, and rubbing certain areas of the face. Keep a food diary to determine if particular foods can cause pain. Some common culprits are bananas, caffeine, and citrus fruits. Hot and cold liquids can also cause flare-ups. If this happens, using a straw might help.

Medical History and Neurological Exam:  One of the best ways to help trigeminal neuralgia pain is to remove the underlying cause. To discover the source of the electric shock-like pain, a medical history should be obtained. Other disease processes such as diabetes can lead to nerve pain and make the symptoms of trigeminal neuralgia worse. A complete neurological exam can help to differentiate trigeminal neuralgia from other types of neuropathic pain conditions. 

Electrical Stimulation: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) are treatment options that use electrical current to block pain signals transmitted by damaged nerves. These options are non-invasive, well-tolerated, and can be a good option for trigeminal pain management.

Topical Pain Relievers:  Topical agents have the advantage of working locally. This typically leads to fewer side effects. There are several creams, ointments, patches, and rubs that can be used to treat painful episodes. In the hospital where I practice, we use lidocaine ointment and patches, Diclofenac gel, and menthol creams for pain relief.

Nutritional Supplements: Several natural products can help relieve nerve pain. When selecting a pain management strategy, side effects are important. I believe natural supplements should be tried before prescription medications because the side effects of anticonvulsants are usually more severe and can negatively affect the quality of life.

Turmeric: Turmeric contains curcumin which has been shown to help with pain and inflammation. This includes nerve pain. Curcumin may promote the regeneration of nerves after nerve injuries. Curcumin has also been shown to inhibit nerve pain transmission.1

Another study showed that curcumin can promote nerve regeneration after nerve fibers are damaged.2

pharmacist Michael

Trigeminal neuralgia is a painful condition that can interfere with daily activities and diminish the quality of life. The intense pain of trigeminal neuralgia can be treated with anticonvulsant medication, topical pain relievers, and turmeric. There are also outpatient and inpatient surgical procedures available. Electrical stimulation is a less intrusive option and may also be effective. Always remember to consider natural remedies such as acupuncture as well. 

 

I believe it is always prudent to try natural remedies and nutritional supplements before prescription medications and surgical procedures whenever possible. The side effects of medications and the surgical risks can be extensive. 

 

If you think you may be suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, it is a good idea to visit a neurologist. Review your treatment options and pick the one that best fits your situation. If you have any questions about this topic or any other health and wellness issue, please feel free to contact me using the author box below. I am always willing to help.

 

Thank you for reading this blog post and enjoy a happy, healthy life.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 
Lady suffering from menopausal symptoms

The Best Herbs for Female Hormone Balance

Lady suffering from menopausal symptoms

What are the best herbs for female hormone balance?

Are you a female who suffers from a hormonal imbalance?

Are you post-menopausal?

Are you looking for a way to restore hormonal balance without prescription medications?

Female hormonal imbalance can cause many annoying symptoms such as:

  • Weight Gain
  • Mood swings
  • Menstrual changes
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Hair Loss
  • Low Libido
  • Increase in Acne
  • Digestive problems
  • Hot Flashes
  • Night Sweats

Several herbal remedies can help restore hormonal balance. This post will examine herbal supplements that can help balance female hormones. 

ashwagandha

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens help our body adapt to stress by normalizing physiological processes. Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine for its many positive medicinal effects on the body. For example, Ashwagandha is thought to improve the hormonal imbalances in females that can lead to cramping, irregular periods, fertility issues, and the negative symptoms of menopause.

Ashwagandha has been shown to improve sexual function in healthy women.1

Dong Quai

Dong Quai is a plant in the same family as carrots, celery, and parsley. The roots of the Dong Quai plant have been used to treat the symptoms of menopause.

It is thought to act similar to estrogen, and because of this, dong quai may interact with estrogen-containing medications. Dong quai may also interact with Warfarin, and other blood thinners, which may increase bleeding risks.

chaste berry

Chasteberry

The chaste tree berry is the fruit of the chaste tree. This berry is also known as monk’s pepper because monks were thought to use this to decrease sexual desire in the Middle Ages.

Even though sample sizes were small, clinical studies have shown extracts of chasteberry can effectively treat premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and latent hyperprolactinemia.2

These results suggest chasteberry may help restore female hormone balance, especially concerning prolactin, progesterone, and possibly estrogen.

red clover

Red Clover

Red clover is a flowering plant that belongs to the bean family. Red clover has been shown to be effective in treating hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms.3

There are interactions between red clover and some medications. Check with your physician or pharmacist if you plan to take this supplement. This is true, especially if you take blood thinners, tamoxifen, or hormone replacement therapy.4

Red clover also possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This herb can be consumed in herbal teas or supplement forms.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose (EPO) is a flowering plant native to North and South America. Its flowers are closed during the day and open at sunset. EPO is made from the plant’s seeds and contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and other omega-6 fatty acids.

GLA has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties. GLA may also affect hormone levels which could explain its use in relieving PMS symptoms, including hot flashes. One study found EPO was able to reduce the severity of hot flashes when compared to a placebo.5

EPO has also been used for breast tenderness and pain, although studies have not shown it to be more effective than a placebo.

Fenugreek Seed

Fenugreek is an herb native to West Asia, parts of Europe, and Iran. This herb has been used to stimulate milk production in new mothers. A study published in 2014 concluded that Fenugreek Seed reduced dysmenorrhea symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, headache, syncope, and fatigue.6

Avena sativa

Avena Sativa

Avena sativa is the Latin name for the common oat. Oats are often consumed as oatmeal for breakfast. Some people believe oats can increase blood flow, increase sexual desire and help to relieve menstrual cramping. Oats may also remove testosterone from binding sites.

Black cohosh

Black Cohosh

The roots of black cohosh are often used to relieve premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstrual cramps, and menopausal symptoms. However, rather than increasing estrogen levels, it is thought that black cohosh may increase the effects of estrogen.

Black cohosh may cause headache, rash, and an upset stomach and may also have negative effects on the liver. Black cohosh should not be combined with hepatotoxic medications.

maca root

Maca Root

Maca root, also known as Peruvian ginseng, is a vegetable belonging to the brassica (mustard) family. It is native to the Peruvian Andes mountain range and has been used as a food and herbal medicine for 2000 years in Peru.7

Maca may help with specific menopausal systems such as hot flashes and poor sleep.

Although few extensive clinical studies have been conducted on the use of maca for the treatment of menopause, a systematic review conducted in 2011 found maca to be more effective than a placebo.8

More research needs to be completed to evaluate this herb’s safety and effectiveness in treating menopause.

I believe herbs available today may decrease the need for hormone replacement therapy in women. Hormone imbalance in women can reduce their quality of life. Many of these herbal supplements can also help with other ailments, as noted below:

Ashwagandha: stress, depression, anxiety, improved memory, insomnia, inflammation

Dong quai: Premature ejaculation

Chaste berry: Acne, infertility

Red clover: Cancer, heart disease, bone loss

Evening primrose oil: Acne, eczema, skin health, hypertension, nerve pain, heart health, bone pain

Fenugreek seed: cholesterol, heartburn, appetite suppressant, inflammation, diabetes

Avena sativa: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gout, anxiety, constipation, gallstones

Maca root: Erectile dysfunction, fertility enhancement, anemia, and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

I have attempted to include the best herbs available today to help balance hormonal issues in women. In addition to these natural products, there are other terrific options available to help, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Mindfulness
  • Yoga
  • Reflexology
  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback and relaxation training
  • Hypnosis

As a society, I believe we are too quick to turn to prescription medications. As a pharmacist, I recognize that every drug has side effects. The combination of medicines can also cause harmful effects. I firmly believe alternative approaches should be tried for many ailments before prescription drugs. Always remember the five pillars of health:

  1. Eat Whole Foods
  2. Drink Plenty of Water
  3. Exercise
  4. Get Enough Sleep
  5. Foster Spiritual and Mental Health

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me. My contact information is available in the author box below.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 
ear exam

Home Remedies for Ear and Throat Pain

representation of ear pain

Are you looking for home remedies for ear and throat pain?

This post will cover over-the-counter pain medications and other remedies to combat these common conditions.

If you have a high fever or severe pain that does not resolve, please go to your local urgent care center or seek medical treatment. Ear and throat pain can be caused by a bacterial infection which may require antibiotic treatment.

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Diagram of the inside of the human ear

Otitis Externa

Swimmer’s Ear 

Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is an infection of the outer opening of the ear and ear canal caused by bacteria or fungi. Otitis externa is a common cause of ear pain. Risk factors for this type of infection include:

  • swimming.
  • Using Q-tips or other foreign objects in the ear.
  • Allergies.
  • Use of hearing aids or earbuds.
  • Irritation or scratches in the ear.

Some Symptoms of Otitis Externa Include:

  • Pain and discharge from the affected ear. Discharge may initially be clear and may change to pus.
  • Redness of ear.
  • Fever.
  • Swelling of lymph nodes.
  • Some hearing loss.

 

ear exam

Otitis Media (Inner Ear Inflammation)

Acute Otitis Media (AOM) is an ear infection occurring in the middle ear (behind the ear drum). This infection is common in young children but can also occur in adults. The most likely cause of AOM is the dysfunction or obstruction of the eustachian tubes. The infection can be caused by viruses or bacterial and, at times both.1

Chronic ear infections may be caused by an abnormality of the mucous membranes that line part of the inner ear. These membranes help form a barrier to infection.

Otitis media is usually treated with an antibiotic such as Augmentin (amoxicillin and clavulanate). A cephalosporin, doxycycline, azithromycin, or clarithromycin may be used in patients with a penicillin allergy.

Symptoms of AOM

  • Ear pain (mild, moderate, or severe)
  • Muffled hearing
  • Fever

 

 

Treatment of Ear Infections

As with most conditions, the best treatment for ear infections is prevention. First, try to keep the ears clean and dry. Refrain from scratching the inside of the ear and remove excess wax buildup with Debrox (Carbamide Peroxide 6.5%). Always follow the directions on the box.

If using ear drops, always follow directions. A cotton ball can be placed in the ear after instilling the medicine to help keep it in the ear.

Treatment of Ear Pain

For ear pain, utilize OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen and Ibuprofen. If you prefer natural remedies, turmeric with ginger is a great choice. The heat from a warm washcloth (warm compresses) or a heating pad can also help with the pain.

Some have suggested placing a few drops of olive oil into the ear. This can soften the earwax making it easier to remove. Olive oil may also possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

When to Seek Medical Advice

Inner ear infections often require antibiotics. It is essential to treat these infections because Otitis media can lead to facial paralysis, meningitis, and hearing loss. If you believe you have an inner ear infection or the treatments above are ineffective, seek medical care.

 

Throat Pain

We have all suffered from a sore throat during our lifetime. Sore throats can be caused by:

· Bacterial infections

· Viral infections

· Allergies

· Exposure to toxic chemicals or smoke

 

What are some good treatments for a sore throat?

 

The best treatment I have found for a sore throat is to coat the throat with hard candy, throat lozenges, or cough drops. Then, add an OTC pain reliever. Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be used for pain. Turmeric can also be used with ear pain if you prefer natural products.

 

Other home remedies may help with a sore throat.

 

Gargling with salt water

 Mix ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt with 8 ounces of warm water and gargle. This can help relieve pain, clear mucous, and kill bacteria. Just gargle with the solution and spit it out. Do not swallow the salt water.

Popsicles

Popsicles can coat your throat and provide a cold sensation that can help deaden the pain.

 Mouth Hygiene

Even with a sore throat, brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing each day is important. Also, limit what you eat to soft, bland foods to prevent irritating the throat. 

Strep Throat

Strep throat is caused by bacteria and often starts with the rapid onset of a sore throat with pain during swallowing. There may also be a fever and swollen lymph nodes.  

If you have problems breathing, become dehydrated, cough up blood or have difficulty swallowing, you should seek medical care.

COVID-19

Some variants of COVID-19 have a severe sore throat as a symptom. I recently had the Omicron variant, producing one of the worst sore throats I have experienced. Omicron is known to cause sore throat and headache. As a reminder, if you end up with COVID, my supplement suggestions are:

  • Vitamin D3/K2 – 5000 units/day
  • Vitamin C – 1000 mg/day
  • Zinc 50mg/day
  • Quercetin to help the zinc penetrate cells

Ear and throat pain are common problems. As with any sickness, I believe prevention is key. Be sure to take care of your body. Our immune system can be improved by eating whole foods, drinking plenty of water, exercising, and getting adequate sleep. Probiotics can also help.

Over-the-counter products such as acetaminophen and Ibuprofen can be used for both ear and throat pain. Turmeric can also help with pain and inflammation.

 

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 
Picture of seas moss growing on rocks

Is Sea Moss Good for Acid Reflux and Other Medical Conditions?

Picture of seas moss growing on rocks

Is sea moss good for acid reflux?
What are some other health benefits of sea moss supplements?

 

Sea moss (Chondrus crispus), also known as Irish moss, due to its red color, is an edible plant that grows in tidepools in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Sea moss isn’t a moss but a type of algae or seaweed. For this reason, sea moss is also known as red algae. This plant has a rich nutrient profile and is full of essential nutrients.

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Sea Moss and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

I attended pharmacy school between 1985-1988 at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. I remember one lecture where the professor poured an acidic solution into a beaker and added Gaviscon liquid. The Gaviscon floated to the top and created a barrier. This demonstration showed how Gaviscon could protect against GERD.

GERD is a common medical condition worldwide. See the diagram below. The United States population is especially prone to this disease.

Global distribution of the burden of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Sample-size weighted mean estimates of the prevalence of at least weekly heartburn and/or regurgitation in each country.1

Common GERD symptoms include:

  • Heartburn: Especially after eating or at night
  • Poor Sleep: Pain and discomfort causes night awakenings
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Belching
  • Vomiting

GERD can result in decreased work productivity and negatively impact the patient’s quality of life.2

GERD is also a risk factor for throat cancer and Barrett’s esophagus.3

What does this have to do with Sea Moss?

Gaviscon contains sodium alginate, which is also found in sea moss. Sodium alginate can form a barrier between the stomach and the esophagus, protecting the esophagus from stomach acid. Typically, the top portion of the stomach has a valve-like sphincter (lower esophageal sphincter) that closes, protecting the esophagus from the acid found in the stomach. However, when this “valve” doesn’t completely close, stomach acid can leak into the esophagus, causing the pain we know as heartburn and the other symptoms listed above.

One way to treat heartburn is to form a barrier between the stomach and the esophagus: Gaviscon or sea moss can accomplish this. In addition, I always use nutritional supplements over OTC medications or prescription drugs whenever possible.

Sea Moss and Weight Loss

We have talked about weight management in previous posts. Lifestyle changes, exercise, whole foods, adequate sleep, and water intake all help keep our weight in check. Sea moss contains fiber which makes us feel full. If we aren’t hungry, we tend to eat less. Less food equals fewer calories. We all know that controlling our weight is good for our overall health.

man holding stomach in pain

Sea Moss and Digestive Health

Sea moss can help improve gut health. We can use it as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are substances that feed gut bacteria. To read more about the importance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, read “Probiotics, Gut-Brain Axis and Psychiatry.”

Irish moss is also high in fiber which can increase bulk in the gut and help relieve constipation and promote regular healthy bowel movements. The gentle laxative effect of sea moss provides a natural remedy for constipation. Sea moss can also help detoxify the body by removing heavy metals and toxins from the GI tract.

Red seaweed may also help relieve gas and bloating. For example, a study published in March of 2021 found the supplementation of red seaweed in cows reduced enteric methane production by more than 80%.4

Sea Moss May Help Some Thyroid Disorders

Our thyroid gland, located in the neck, is responsible for producing thyroid hormones (T3 and T4). Iodine is a trace element not produced by the human body and is necessary to make these thyroid hormones. T3 and T4 are essential to promote growth and brain development in children and help regulate metabolism in adults.5

Hypothyroidism is present in about 5% of Americans aged 12 years and older.6

Hypothyroidism has many causes, including Hashimoto’s Disease (an autoimmune disorder), surgical removal of thyroid gland tissue, radiation treatment with I-131, some medications, and iodine deficiency.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight Gain
  • Thinning Hair
  • Depressed Mood
  • Dry Skin
  • Muscle Pain
  • Sensitivity to Cold
  • Goiter (Swollen thyroid gland

Irish moss has a high iodine content and can help relieve some thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism. However, it is important to follow dosing recommendations to avoid ingesting too much iodine.7

Sea Moss and Nutrition

Sea moss is packed with vitamins and essential minerals. The rich zinc content of Irish moss and vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and folate can help support the immune system. In addition, sea moss has b vitamins to help increase energy levels and contains antioxidants that may reduce oxidative stress at the cellular level. Sea moss also contains vitamin k, which helps blood clotting and helps build strong bones. Irish moss is also a rich iron source. Iron is vital for red blood cell production, is essential for a healthy pregnancy, and can improve athletic performance.8

Sea moss has many health benefits. This edible plant can help relieve the symptoms of acid reflux and is an excellent digestive aid. It can help with weight loss by creating a feeling of fullness due to its fiber content. Irish moss is a prebiotic that helps feed bacteria in the gut, promoting a healthy digestive system. Thyroid issues resulting from a lack of iodine can also be helped by consuming sea moss. Sticking to the recommended dosage is essential because too much iodine can also be detrimental to health.

Sea moss is a nutritious food containing many essential vitamins and minerals. It has fewer side effects than OTC or prescription drugs. Irish moss is also high in antioxidants.

Sunshine Nutraceuticals has recently added sea moss to our product line. Our supplement contains 500mg Organic Irish Moss, 500mg Organic Bladderwrack, 400mg Organic Burdock and 5mg BioPerine per serving (2 capsules).

If you have any questions about sea moss or any other nutraceutical supplement, feel free to contact me. My contact information is available in the author box below.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

How to Break the Addiction Cycle

Do you have an addiction that is affecting your life?
Would you like a more healthy lifestyle?
Do you know the different stages of drug addiction?

This post will help you break the cycle of addiction. Reading this blog post starts your first step in getting clean and taking back your life. Addictive behavior should not rob you of your happiness. So read on and break the vicious cycle of addiction for good!

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

STATISTICS

According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics 1

  • 11.7% of Americans age 12 and overuse illegal drugs, and 31.9 million have used them within the last 30 days.
  • 139.8 million Americans 12 and over drink alcoholic beverages, and 14.8 million (10.6%) have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
  • Less than 8% of those with an AUD receive treatment.
  • There have been 700,000 deaths due to drug overdoses in the United States since 2000.
  • 47% of America’s youth use an illicit drug before high school graduation.

Risk Factors and Protective Factors

Research has shown that drug addiction is multifactorial.

We know that most individuals do not begin using substances to become addicted. We also know that a risk factor for one person may not be a risk factor for another.

The more risk factors one is subjected to in childhood, the greater chance of addiction.

Timing is also essential. Peer pressure during middle and high school is usually more powerful than at other stages of life.

This is also true of protective factors. A robust parent-child bond can have a more significant effect during the Childs early years of life.

Environmental factors such as drug availability and anti-drug use policies are critical. It is impossible to start using drugs or alcohol if they are unavailable.

The table below shows important risk factors and protective factors regarding drug addiction.2

risk factors and protective factors regarding drug addiction

The Seven Stages of Addiction

The infographic below outlines the seven stages of drug addiction.

Unfortunately, it may take several years to progress through all stages. As a result, first-time drug users may not make it to stage 7.

In addition, each stage comes with a higher risk of negative consequences.

Remember, illicit drugs are not the only addictive substances. Prescription drugs can also be abused and are very dangerous if misused.

In 2017, prescription opiates caused 17,029 deaths.3

Ways to Break the Addiction Cycle

respect yourself note on cork board with heart

The Most Important Thing to Remember

If you are reading this post, please realize that you are worthy of happiness.

It doesn’t matter what has happened in your past; you have a gift to give humanity.

I believe the first step in the recovery process is learning how to love yourself. Low self-esteem is an emotional trigger for drug use.

Many of us try to use substances to escape daily life stressors or to numb recurring emotional pain. This might work initially, but it often leads to drug dependence. Remember, the first step is to learn to love yourself.

I am a firm believer in self-love.

Man and woman holding hands looking at ocean during sunset

Engage in Activities that Exclude Intoxicants

One of the easiest ways to break the addictive cycle is to limit activities to those that don’t involve intoxicants. Many forms of entertainment fit this category.

Some ideas are listed below:

  • Engage in a hobby such as scuba diving or photography.
  • Meet a friend and work out at your local gym.
  • Watch a movie.
  • Go on a bike ride.
  • Cook your favorite meal.
  • Go hiking.
  • Take a walk on the beach.
  • Go to church.
  • Attend a support group.
  • Meditate
  • Read a good book.
  • Play a round of golf.
  • Take a road trip.
Man shopping for a guitar

Develop a Reward System for Not Using

I will never forget things from my experience as Director of Pharmacy in a private psychiatric hospital during the late ’90s.

One of the psychiatrists would tell his patients to take half of the money they would spend on drugs and alcohol and buy something they enjoyed. This can be a powerful tool. Using drugs is expensive, and buying things you want with some of the money you would have spent on your habit can be a compelling deterrent.

You can reward yourself with a trip to the beach, the nail salon, or an expensive meal. A piece of artwork or even a new car!

Whatever it is that makes you happy.

Buy Anxiety Formula Here

Traffic sign that reads new skills ahead

Work on Coping Skills

Stress

Learning how to deal with stress is crucial if you expect to break the addiction cycle. Pressure can come from relationship problems, job loss, the death of a family member or pet, and even everyday life. Stress often leads to anxiety which can prompt drug or alcohol use. Please read my blog post “9-useful tools for anxiety relief.” for ideas on how to relieve anxiety symptoms. Here are some ideas to help reduce stress. Pick the activities that work best for you.

  • Practice deep breathing techniques.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Try herbal supplements or drink herbal tea.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Practice yoga.
  • Get a massage.
  • Spend time in your garden.

The good news is many other choices can help reduce stress. Doing what you enjoy and having a good time is what is important.

Stop the Negative Thinking

Thinking errors can lead to relapse. If you plan to break the addiction cycle, you must learn how to minimize these thoughts. Thinking errors come in many forms, but they can all be detrimental to mental health. Please see my blog post for a more detailed discussion on thinking errors.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the best way to combat thinking errors. This therapy helps to identify unhealthy thoughts and learn to react to them positively. CBT is available as an outpatient or part of a good inpatient substance abuse treatment program.

I highly recommend the book “Feeling Good” by Dr. David D. Burns. This is a must-read for those suffering from substance dependence. I have read this book several times, and it does help with not only thinking errors but anxiety and depression.

Eat Healthily

I cannot overstate the importance of eating healthy


A good diet is not only good for your body, but it also helps your mood. One study showed an unhealthy, high-glycemic diet led to more depression symptoms and an increase in mood disturbances compared to a low-glycemic-load diet.4

A healthy diet can also improve sleep quality.

Be Grateful

Gratitude is an essential aspect of the recovery process.

When a person stops using drugs or alcohol, emotions begin to appear. Addicts often feel guilt, shame, and remorse. It is crucial to balance these negative emotions with positive ones.

We all have many reasons to be grateful. The secret is to focus on the positive aspects of our lives and not dwell on the negative.

For a more in-depth discussion on gratitude, read my blogpost Gratitude Unlocks the Fullness of Life

Bright neurons

Understand the Effects of Dopamine on Your Behavior

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. The dopamine receptors in our brain bind to the dopamine, which leads to the feeling of pleasure. Many things lead to an increase in dopamine release, including:

  • Drugs
  • Sugar
  • Sex
  • Gambling
  • TV
  • Social Media

When we indulge in these behaviors that increase dopamine release, our brains adjust by decreasing the number of dopamine receptors available. When this happens, we need more dopamine to feel normal. If we stop participating in “dopamine-producing” activities, we begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Dysphoria (dissatisfaction with life)
  • irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Craving

This often leads to the person engaging in whatever activity produced the dopamine surplus, to begin with. However, we can break this cycle. If we stop flooding our brains with dopamine long enough, we can return to a balanced state.

Group counseling session

Get Professional Treatment

It is critical to realize that drug addiction is a chronic disease process. For a treatment program to be successful, it must help the patient:

  • Cease the use of intoxicants.
  • Remain drug-free.
  • Become productive at work and in society.
  • Develop into a positive influence on family and friends.

The best treatment programs combine several treatment approaches to provide individualized healing. Drug treatment must provide for individualization. What works well for one patient may not be effective for another. The figure below outlines the principles of an effective drug treatment program according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

There are many outstanding treatment facilities available throughout the United States to choose from. A simple Google search for “drug and alcohol treatment near me” will give you a list of treatment centers in your area.

Pharmacist

My Final Thoughts

Drug and alcohol addiction can rob us of happiness and joy. What begins to be an enjoyable activity can turn into a nightmare. Many people have a family history of addiction. If you fall into this category, you owe it to yourself and your family to start a new life.

  • A new life without drugs and alcohol.
  • A new life of happiness.
  • A new life where YOU are in control.

 

Take a minute to think of your life without intoxicants.

 

How do you feel?

What will you accomplish?

How will this affect the people around you?

There is no better time to start your recovery than right now! You deserve to be happy! You deserve a better life!

If you have any questions about this post or anything related to health and wellness, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Remember, it is up to you to live a happy, healthy life, and Sunshine Nutraceuticals can help!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 
Health Benefits of Green Tea and Honey

Health Benefits of Green Tea and Honey

Green tea and honey

Are you looking for a healthy, great-tasting beverage that is good for your body? 

We all know the benefits of drinking water, but sometimes you need something different. 

What if I told you there is a drink that can lower cholesterol levels, help fight free radicals, help you with weight loss, and even strengthen your immune system? 

This post will explain some of the health benefits of green tea and honey. Green tea can have a bitter taste, and adding honey can make the tea more palatable while adding some health benefits.

Here are a few reasons to consume green tea and honey.

Doctor taking Blood Pressure Reading

May Lower Blood Pressure and Improve Lipid Profiles

Studies have shown that the consumption of green tea can be beneficial to cardiovascular health. A systematic review of twenty random controlled trials including 1536 subjects found green tea intake significantly reduces systolic blood pressure, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and total cholesterol.1

Another study also found that the administration of green tea lowered both total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol concentrations. However, no effect on HD cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels was observed in this study.2

Reducing high blood pressure and improving lipid profiles may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

Cancer cells

May Have a Role in Cancer Prevention

Several polyphenols are present in green tea leaves, and these compounds are thought to be responsible for their cancer preventative effects. Green tea has the highest polyphenol concentration compared to other teas, which may explain why it is more effective in causing cancer cell damage and death.3

Studies have shown that consumption of green tea can either induce oxidative stress, leading to cancer cell death, or it can act as an antioxidant, preventing cellular damage.4

May Aid in Weight Loss

Green tea extract is a component in many weight loss formulations, including those available at Sunshine Nutraceuticals. For example, in one study, 60 obese subjects (BMI>25) were split into two groups. In addition to their meals, one group was given green tea, and the other group a placebo. The green tea group had significantly higher weight loss than the placebo group at the eight and twelve-week measurements.5

Another study involving 192 moderately overweight Chinese males and females showed that regular consumption of a very-high catechin green tea over 90 days leads to significant reductions in body weight, waist circumference, and intra-abdominal fat.6

Green Tea and Brain Health

We are learning more about Parkinson’s Disease and dementia each day. The catechins present in green tea are potent antioxidants. They may help protect our brain neurons by scavenging free radicals and chelating iron, activating specific signaling pathways and genes.7

Benefits of Caffeinated Green Tea

Caffeine is the most popular nootropic substance currently in use. We all know how caffeine can boost energy levels and focus. Caffeine can also improve your brain reaction time and exercise performance and may improve cardiac health. However, caffeine is a drug, and no medication is free from side effects. 

For example, too much caffeine can make a person jittery. Caffeine can also be habit-forming and can cause headaches if abruptly discontinued. It can also cause anxiety, especially at higher doses. If you start to feel some of these side effects, try to consume less caffeine. Caffeine may also interact with some medications, so check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Honey

We all know that honey is a natural sweetener with a yummy taste. But, do you realize that honey has many benefits other than helping soothe a sore throat? 

Always remember that raw honey is a better alternative than processed honey. I know some don’t believe this to be true, but in my opinion, raw honey is a better option. So, what are some of the benefits of raw honey?

doctor with holographic brain between his hands

Honey Also Has Antioxidant Properties and
Positive Effects on the Brain

The brain is especially prone to oxidative damage due to its high oxygen consumption and the presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in the neural membranes. Raw honey contains polyphenols which can help protect against fat oxidation. These compounds may also improve learning ability, memory, and cognitive function.

We know that raw honey can help with anxiety and depression and may act as an anticonvulsant.8

Honey Maybe Better in Controlling Blood Sugar Levels
and Preventing Metabolic Syndrome

Honey has been shown to lower blood pressure, decrease obesity, reduce lipid levels, and positively affect diabetes. In addition, honey can decrease insulin resistance leading to lower blood sugar levels. These factors may help limit weight gain and accumulation of fat storage and prevent or improve metabolic syndrome.9

Bacteria

Honey and Green/Black Tea
May Have Antibacterial Properties

One study found honey and green/black tea reduced the risk of H. pylori infection. This study may lead to further studies evaluating the use of honey and tea in the prevention or treatment of some infections.10

Green tea (camellia sinensis) is one of the world’s most popular and healthy drinks. This tea, along with oolong and black tea, has been consumed in China and India for fifty centuries. 

The antioxidant substances in tea leaves may help with several health-related problems, including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, weight loss, neurological disorders, and more. 

In addition, if you use raw honey to sweeten your green tea, more antioxidants will be available to help reduce cellular oxidation.

I highly recommend adding green tea and honey to your diet. Your body will thank you.

If you have any questions regarding this or any other post, please email me at [email protected] I try to answer all emails.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

Sunshine Store

Visit The Sunshine Store For Your Vitamins And Supplements

Vistaril vs Xanax for anxiety – A Pharmacists perspective

Do you suffer from anxiety?

Have you tried different therapies with no luck?

Do anti-anxiety medications lead to adverse effects?

This post will compare Vistaril vs Xanax for anxiety treatment.

Woman with anxiety

Anxiety

Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health conditions and cause significant disability? According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), the lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders in the United States is about 32%.

1

It is not surprising that anxiety disorders can lead to a loss of productivity greater than other mental health disorders. Even though there are many treatments for anxiety symptoms, only 60-85% of patients experience at least a 50% improvement in their symptoms using current medical and psychological treatments.2

Below are some symptoms of general anxiety3

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
  • Being irritable
  • Having muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

The symptoms of panic disorder are listed below:

  • Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering or choking
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Feelings of being out of control

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Xanax picture

Alprazolam (XANAX) is a benzodiazepine used for the treatment of general anxiety disorder and panic attacks. In 2013, more than 48 alprazolam prescriptions were dispensed in the United States.4

Although alprazolam is an effective medication for treating anxiety, it does have some serious adverse effects. Some of the more significant unwanted side effects are listed below:

  • confusion
  • Problems speaking
  • poor balance or coordination
  • severe drowsiness
  • seizures
  • shortness of breath (respiratory depression)
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • severe skin rash

Alprazolam is also a controlled substance which means it has a high potential to be addictive. Therefore, other treatment options are preferred in those patients with a substance use disorder history.

The symptoms of withdrawal from alprazolam are as follows5

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Increased tension and anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • hand tremor
  • sweating
  • Poor concentration
  • Dry heaves and nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headache
  • Muscular Pain and stiffness
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis

Even those using alprazolam as an anxiety treatment may become psychologically and physically addicted. Since this drug decreases abnormal brain excitement and produces a calming effect, it has a high potential for misuse. It also has a swift onset of action and short duration, increasing its abuse potential and severity of withdrawal symptoms. Alprazolam’s severe withdrawal symptoms may be especially dangerous when abrupt discontinuation after long-term use.

As a medical professional, I only recommend alprazolam for the short-term treatment of severe anxiety.

Xanax has a black box warning for:

  • Risks from Concomitant Opioid Use – This combination may lead to profound sedation, difficulty breathing, coma, and even death.
  • Addiction, Abuse, and Misuse.
  • Dependence and withdrawal reactions.

I strongly suggest contacting a healthcare provider if you believe you are addicted to alprazolam or other medication.

One more interesting fact regarding alprazolam. This is one of the few drugs that I have heard patients complaining that the generic form does not work as well as the brand name. This may be an imagined phenomenon, but I have heard it from several patients.

Hydroxyzine pamoate is an antihistamine that non-selectively blocks peripheral and central histamine receptors. This medication can be used for medical conditions other than anxiety such as itching, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, and as a surgical adjunct.

As with any drug, Vistaril has side effects, some of which are listed below.

  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Ataxia
  • Weakness
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache
  • Agitation
  • Nausea

More severe side effects of Vistaril include:

  • QT prolongation
  • torsades de pointes
  • Heatstroke
  • Seizures
  • Dyspnea
  • Hypersensitivity reactions

The recommended dose of Vistaril for anxiety in adults is 50-100mg by mouth every six hours as needed. Unlike Xanax, Vistaril is not a controlled substance but is a prescription medication. Hydroxyzine may interact with other anticholinergic agents, CNS depressants, and agents that prolong the QTc interval. Be sure to contact your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking other prescription medications before initiating Vistaril.

So which medication is a better choice for anxiety?

Both Xanax and Vistaril can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety. However, they both cause drowsiness and will interact with other CNS depressants, including ethanol. They are both prescription drugs, but Xanax is a controlled substance, so it is not suitable for those with a history of addictive behavior. In my professional opinion, Xanax is a better option for the short-term relief of severe anxiety and panic attacks. I believe it is more effective than hydroxyzine. Unfortunately, I was only able to find one study comparing the two agents in the setting of pre-anesthesia. This study came to the following conclusion:

“Alprazolam and hydroxyzine are both efficient and safe pre-anesthetic medications. However, a more pronounced, although modest, anxiolytics and the the absence of side effects favors the use of alprazolam over hydroxyzine.”6

Both alprazolam and hydroxyzine should be avoided during pregnancy. Xanax carries a possible risk of teratogenicity and risk of neonatal withdrawal symptoms, and floppy infant syndrome. Xanax is a better choice than hydroxyzine when breastfeeding, according to Epocrates (accessed 11/28/2021). Epocrates states, “May use low doses of alprazolam short-term with breastfeeding, otherwise monitor infant closely. There is a possible risk of CNS depression in the infant when the breastfeeding mother takes alprazolam.

Michael's Professional Opinion

Anxiety can be a debilitating condition and can lead to poor quality of life in some individuals. As with most diseases, there is a broad range of severity in the various anxiety disorders. My concern is that patients will go straight to their provider and end up with a prescription to treat their anxiety when a drug-free alternative may work just fine. In addition, there are non-drug options available for anxiety symptom relief.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

One of the best treatments for anxiety is CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most researched form of psychotherapy in history. CBT is a psychological treatment that helps patients recognize thought patterns that are contributing to their anxiety. I believe we are all prone to thinking errors. Suppose we can learn to recognize these and train our minds to think differently. In that case, we can decrease our anxiety and depression symptoms without introducing chemicals into our bodies. The other problem is that when we become anxious, these thinking errors become distorted and amplified, leading to more anxiety.

I strongly suggest giving CBT a try before starting any anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication. The results will likely surprise you. If you don’t have the time to spend in therapy sessions, there is a book I recommend reading. I have included a link to this book below. I have read this book several times, and it has helped me deal with my thinking errors and helped many others do the same.

Lifestyle Changes

Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating the wrong types of foods, and not getting the proper amount of sleep can all make anxiety symptoms worse. Exercise can significantly help. Read my recent blog post on anxiety for more information on lifestyle changes.

Nutritional Supplements

As many of you know, I am the owner of Sunshine Nutraceuticals. I believe that natural supplements are a vital piece of the health and wellness puzzle. I also think that one of the possible uses of these supplements is to treat anxiety symptoms.

Prescription Drugs

If you are having a hard time coping with daily living or are considering hurting yourself, please call 911 and get help NOW. Regardless of how bad things seem, you can be helped. A person with a mental health disorder is no different than someone with heart disease, diabetes, or asthma; they just have a different organ of their body affected.

Back to our two drugs. Alprazolam should not be used for the long-term relief of anxiety. As mentioned earlier, it can be addictive and has a short duration of action. We often use a benzodiazepine such as alprazolam while waiting for the long-term anxiety medication to work. To treat anxiety, the drugs we start with are antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). These medications often take several weeks to show maximum benefit, so it is critical to have a backup.

If you have any questions regarding this topic or any other subject, don’t hesitate to contact me by clicking the link in the author box below. Remember to take care of your mind and body always!  

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

Compulsive vs Impulsive Behavior, Are They the Same?

What is the main difference between compulsive behavior and impulsivity? I tell my students that compulsive behavior is repeated by the person even though that person is aware that this behavior will not result in the desired goal.

9 Useful Tools For Anxiety Relief

We have all experienced anxiety during our lives.  Most of us are able to cope with stress and anxiety but it can become problematic and may even cause other more serious medical issues.  In this post, I am going to give you 9 ways to obtain anxiety relief without drugs.  Most of these techniques can be learned quickly and some you may already know.

1. Take A Walk

One of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce stress and anxiety is to remove yourself from the current situation.  I like to take a quick walk outside when possible.  Just breathing fresh air can really help.  Take some time to appreciate nature.  Pick up a leaf and notice how remarkable nature can be.  Walk to a river or stream and just watch and listen to the running water.  Taking a walk not only helps with anxiety but can also improve blood flow to your brain and help you think more clearly.

2. Exercise

Exercise is one of the best weapons against stress and anxiety.  It is so important that it is one of my five pillars of health.  We all know the many benefits of exercise.  If you find yourself experiencing stress and anxiety, make time for physical activity.  It is important that you pick a form of exercise you enjoy.  If you don’t like the activity, you probably won’t stick to it.  I recommend setting aside at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week for exercise.

3. Be Sure to Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep is also one of my five pillars of health.  I have found that if I don’t get enough sleep, I become more easily stressed and my anxiety level increases.  Most of us need at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night.  This will vary depending on the individual.  When we are under stress, our bodies need more sleep.  Be sure to practice good sleep hygiene as well.

4. Watch What You Eat

5. Avoid or Limit Alcohol

Drinking  alcohol can make anxiety and stress much worse.  It can decrease sleep quality and using it to relax can backfire.  Click here for a more in depth discussion on why you should avoid drinking alcohol.

6. Just Breathe

The quickest and easiest way to reduce anxiety is to concentrate on your breathing.  I like to use square breathing.  Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, breath out for 3 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, and repeat as many times as necessary.  This takes your mind away from whatever it is that is causing the stress. 

7. Stay Positive

I believe positivity can improve almost anything.  Always remember that things can always be worse.  Think of what you are grateful for and consider keeping a gratitude journal.  Writing these things down can improve happiness and reduce anxiety. 

8. Be Careful With Caffeine

Coffee and caffeinated beverages can keep you alert, but too much caffeine may make stress and anxiety worse.  Know your limits.  Be sure to stop drinking caffeine several hours before going to sleep.  

9. Consider Natural Supplements

Our Anxiety Formula is specifically designed to help reduce the symptoms caused by stress and anxiety.  Order yours today by clicking on this link.

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

Psilocybin for Depression and Anxiety

Can the psychoactive substance found in “magic mushrooms” be used to treat depression?

Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic drug present in some species of mushrooms. This compound was utilized in the 1960’s for various psychiatric conditions before being classified as a schedule I substance by the FDA in 1970. 

Schedule I substances have no current acceptable medical use and have a high potential for abuse. 

Some examples of Schedule I substances are heroin, LSD, and PCP.

Recently, some cities have decriminalized psilocybin. The first to do so was Denver, Colorado, in May of 2019.  

The first state to legalize psilocybin is Oregon, where I live. Measure 109 passed in November of 2020. This measure allows the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to develop a program to enable licensed providers to administer mushrooms and fungi containing psilocybin to individuals over 21.

This measure opens the door for psilocybin to be used for psychiatric conditions where traditional treatment has failed.

What is Psilocybin?

Psilocybin is a psychedelic substance that alters consciousness through interaction with serotonin (5HT2A) receptors.

The question is whether this substance has any benefit for these conditions. To answer this question, I looked at the available studies.

 

Psilocybin Treatment for Anxiety and Depression in Cancer Patients

Cancer patients commonly suffer from significant anxiety and depression. It is estimated that 30-40% of these patients are affected by these disorders when hospitalized.

Prevalence of depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorder in oncological, haematological, and palliative-care settings: a meta-analysis of 94 interview-based studies.1

Anxiety and depression are associated with a variety of symptoms that lead to poor outcomes.  Some of these include:

2

3

 

4

  • Increased suicide rates.
  • Increased disability
  • Poor medication compliance.
  • Increased health care utilization.
  • Decreased quality of life.
  • Increased pain.
  • Decreased social functioning.
  • Decreased survival rates.

Although this is a significant problem, no FDA-approved pharmacotherapies are approved for psychological distress related to cancer. Antidepressant agents take time to take effect, side effects compromise treatment adherence, many treatments are ineffective, and relapse rates are significant.5

 

6

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial involving 29 patients with cancer-related anxiety and depression was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in December of 2016.7

This study was designed to determine the efficacy of a single psilocybin dosing session compared to an active control (niacin 250mg) in treating cancer patients with anxiety and depression.  

The investigators concluded that moderate-dose psilocybin (along with psychotherapy) produced rapid and sustained anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects.  These effects lasted anywhere from 7 weeks to 8 months. These patients exhibited decreased cancer-related existential distress, increased spiritual well-being, quality of life, and improved attitudes towards death.

There were no serious adverse effects reported during this study in either group.

Psilocybin in Unipolar Depression

An open-label study of 12 patients with moderate-to-severe, unipolar depression was published in Lancer Psychiatry in July of 2016. This was a feasibility trial involving six men and six women.8

These patients received two oral doses of psilocybin (10mg and 25mg) seven days apart. The figure below represents the Schedule of study interventions for this trial.

This study’s main objective was to create an optimized protocol for psilocybin administration and gain information about its efficacy in treating unipolar depression.

No severe adverse effects occurred during this study, and the psilocybin was well-tolerated. The side effects that did appear were:

  • Anxiety (mostly mild)
  • Confusion or thought disorder
  • Nausea
  • Headache

No prolonged psychosis was observed in any of the subjects.

Depression severity was measured using the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (QIDS) score. Scoring is as follows:

>21 – Very severe depression

16-20 – Severe depression

11-15 – Moderate depression

6-10 – mild depression

5 or below – No depression

<=9 – Indicates remission of depression

 

All scoring was completed at the intervals shown on the graph below. The time period reflects time passed after the high-dose session. The figure below shows the results over time. These results were also confirmed using the Beck’s Depression Inventory Scale.

Every patient had a reduction in depression severity one week after the high-dose session. Week 2 showed the most significant results. Eight of the twelve patients (67%) achieved complete remission at week one, and five of these (42%) were still in remission at three months.

Although this was a study with a small sample size and no control group, it is promising that many of these treatment-resistant patients achieved remission of their depression. More studies are needed to confirm what was gleaned from this study, but it appears that psilocybin can be safely administered to patients who are appropriately screened and receive adequate support.

Anxiety and depression are prevalent in today’s society. Many of our traditional antidepressant medications take weeks to work and are often ineffective. Psilocybin shows promise in the management of those with treatment-resistant anxiety and depression.

Psilocybin is also associated with only minor side effects. It does not typically cause compulsive drug-seeking behaviors and is relatively non-toxic.  

In addition to the studies mentioned above, psilocybin has also had positive effects on smoking cessation.9

It has also been shown to significantly decrease alcohol consumption in alcoholic patients.10

More studies need to be conducted to determine the optimal dose and frequency of psilocybin administration in treating psychiatric disorders. One thing is certain; we desperately need more treatments for anxiety and depression.  

If you have any comments regarding this post or any other, please feel free to contact me through the link in the author box below.

As always, have a happy week and stay safe!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

 

 

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.