Addiction and Biochemical Imbalance

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I began to take a real interest in addiction in the mid 1950s while practising in Port Coquitlam, BC.

I had two heroin addicts under my care. One was a hard core addict who was locked up in a decrepit hotel by his friends. They stood guard over him for 10 days to prevent him getting more drugs. He went through withdrawal "cold turkey."

The other man was a "joy-popping" addict and sawmill worker whose addiction was largely dependant on social contacts. He had ceased his habit on several previous occasion without much problem.

The 1950s was also the period in which my research in practice forced the conclusion that chronic asthmatics, Crohn's disease patients with diarrhoea, rheumatoid arthritics and others were experiencing lifestyle defects, including diet, that had led to chronic deficiency of dietary calcium and both dietary and sun -on-skin vitamin D. (Vitamin D is required to ionize calcium in the living body cells to render it biologically active.)

Those patients showed clinical similarities with heroin addicts. Both pursued the same lifestyle patterns responsible for the deficiencies and both demonstrated increased irritability of muscle when the muscle was struck with a percussion hammer, as well as other findings.

This compelled me to apply to the warden of Oakalla Prison in Burnaby to conduct similar studies on prisoners incarcerated for heroin-related offenses. I concluded that hard-core addicts, like my hotel-room patient, as well as other diseased people, were seriously deficient in ionic calcium. The joy-popping heroin users were relatively non-deficient.

On the basis of this study I proposed that individuals may react in a wide variety of ways to the same ionic calcium-deficient state, depending on other chemical and inherited factors. In some it might result in increased function of nerve and muscle cells, creating a state of "biochemical anxiety." This individual may experience relief of symptoms by using tobacco or an addictive drug.

Other deficient individuals may have automatically developed acidifying adaptive function of the lungs and intestines, designed to effect biochemical compensation for the deficiency. The breakdown of such function, created by overload, may also be the cause of chronic asthma, Crohn's ileitis or other disease states.

Addicts and chronically ill patients were also similar in that all showed marked acidity of their saliva when tested with litmus paper: their saliva pH was never in the normal, slightly alkaline to neutral state with a pH range of 7.5 to 7.0. It was invariably acidic, in the pH range of 6.5 to 4.5.

Over the years I made other observations on over 20,000 patients suffering these and other diseases. Many were experiencing a level of chronic anxiety that existed alone or in combination with disease. All of them, including several addicts, were treated as deficient in calcium ionized by an adequate amount of vitamin D. On the basis of these observations and on patient response I propose that both diseased patients and individuals addicted to tobacco, prescription or street drugs should be treated as follows:

The pH of their saliva should be tested. If found to be acidic they should abstain from acid-producing foods containing acidic minerals (meat and starchy foods) and eat largely alkaline-producing foods containing alkaline minerals (vegetables and fruit) as well as take the following supplements in divided dosages, three times daily.

These are one and a half grams of calcium and three to five thousand units of vitamin D. (In 1988 the Committee on Diet and Health of the USA National Research Council announced that the minimum toxic dose of vitamin D was 50,000 IU).

If at all possible these individuals should engage in a form of aerobic exercise. The acidifying effect of lactic acid formation may enhance the elimination of acidic minerals. It should also assist in the absorption and ionization of calcium by exposing as much skin to sun and daylight as possible, at least of the arms and legs, allowing the synthesis of the body's "person specific vitamin D."

Self-testing of saliva-guiding self-nutritional therapy should prove to be a most important means of normalizing the background biochemical state responsible for addiction.

Dr Reich is retired. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.

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By Carl J. Reich

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