It isn’t “new news” that we are in full blown crisis-mode when it comes to opioid addiction in this country. In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the US alone died from overdoses involving opioids.
And, in regards to a seemingly unrelated topic, studies show that more than 40% of adults in the US are deficient in vitamin D.
So then, if it’s an unrelated topic, why mention vitamin D deficiency alongside the opioid crisis that is plaguing the US?
It turns out there may be a correlation between the two!
Yes, recent studies have revealed a potential link between vitamin D deficiencies and opioid addiction.
And, this doesn’t just affect those addicted to opioids either!
According to the study, which we’ll detail below, being deficient in vitamin D could mean that opioids (yes, even those you may receive after an operation) have a greater effect on you altogether, potentially putting you at a greater risk of addiction.
So then, let’s take a look at this recently found link…
Vitamin D: Daily Intake And Deficiency
Before detailing the research, let’s first take a look at vitamin D…
Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining the health of your body.
It’s primary role is in helping your body to absorb calcium, which is essential for removing mineralized bone and forming healthy, strong bones. In a similar way, vitamin D also keeps your teeth healthy, aiding in remineralization.
This vitamin has also been shown to increase muscle strength, help to fight against depression, and even boost weight loss.
And, vitamin D plays an essential role in keeping your immune system functioning properly.
Ways To Boost Vitamin D Levels
So then, where is vitamin D found?
Unlike some vitamins and minerals, your body can’t make vitamin D on its own.
Therefore, the best way to boost vitamin D levels is through exposure to the sun.
Thus, you may have heard vitamin D referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” due to the fact that exposure to sunlight allows your skin to produce it.
The experts recommend getting 10-30 minutes of midday sun exposure multiple times per week, and this amount increases if you have darker skin.
Minus sunlight, you can get vitamin D through supplementation and in some foods.
The following foods contain vitamin D or are fortified with vitamin D:
- beef liver
- egg yolk
- cereal (fortified)
- yogurt (fortified)
- orange juice (fortified)
- milk (fortified)
And, you can also get vitamin D safely, and easily, from supplements.
Vitamin D Deficiency
If you weren’t receiving adequate vitamin D from the sun, foods, or supplements, how would you even know?
First, if you live in an area with limited hours of sunlight each day (northern and southernmost areas of our globe), you may not have ample opportunities to receive vitamin D from the sun.
Likewise, if you spend most of your time indoors, live in an area with a great amount of pollution (smog), or use sunscreen each time you go outdoors, you may not be receiving adequate sunlight for your body to produce vitamin D.
Other factors like obesity and age also play a role in insufficient vitamin D levels.
If your body does not have adequate levels of vitamin D, you may experience…
- Hair loss
- Bone and muscle aches/problems
- Greater risk of injury (bone and muscle)
- Low immunity
Vitamin D Deficiency And Opioid Addiction According To The Research
For many years, scientists have known vitamin D deficiency could contribute to poor bone and teeth health as well as susceptibility to certain diseases, but recent findings show a link to other concerns as well.
And, it’s this connection to these concerns that could result in a win in the battle against opioid addiction!
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered that vitamin D deficiency was responsible for greatly exaggerated cravings both for opioids and their effects. These cravings, of course, pose a greater risk for potential opioid dependence and addiction in those individuals who are deficient in the vitamin.
The lead author of this study explained that their goal was to understand the link between vitamin D signalling within the body and UV and opioid-seeking behaviors.
But, where did this theory originate?
First, a previous study revealed a link between UVB exposure and the production of endorphins (which are chemically related to morphine, heroin, and other opioids, all activating the same receptors within the brain).
Endorphins are often known as the “feel good hormones” as they create a sense of happiness, mimicking the “high” often associated with opioid use.
Secondly, other studies conducted in mice showed a direct link between increased UV exposure and increased levels of endorphins, these increases resulting in behaviors consistent with opioid addiction.
And, other research centered around this matter showed a connection between the urge to sunbathe or even visit a tanning salon and the behaviors of opioid addicts, leading to the hypothesis that these individuals are seeking out UVB rays in response to a craving for the “rush” or sense of happiness typically associated with endorphins.
The conclusion? Both humans and animals alike are drawn to the sun (exposure) when deficient in vitamin D, so much so, that deficiencies in the vitamin can lead to addictive types of behavior.
Thus, the ultimate theory: vitamin D deficiency could potentially lead individuals to being more sensitive to the effects of opioids, contributing to addiction.
So then, what did the study at Massachusetts General reveal?
In one part of the study, researchers evaluated normal mice and those deficient in vitamin D. The results here showed that adjusting vitamin D levels changed addictive behaviors to both opioids and UVB rays as well.
The study also revealed that morphine (an opioid) had an exaggerated response in mice that were deficient in vitamin D.
After seeing such results, one researcher on the team, Dr. Fisher, noted the following concern: “consider a surgery patient who receives morphine for pain control after the operation. If that patient is deficient in vitamin D, the euphoric effects of morphine could be exaggerated, and that person is more likely to become addicted.”
The following analyses of human health records support the conclusion of the research done at Massachusetts General, suggesting the same link between vitamin D deficiency and increased addictive behaviors:
- Patients with moderately low vitamin D levels were 50% more likely than those patients with normal levels to use opioids.
- Patients with severely low vitamin D levels were 90% more likely than those patients with normal levels to use opioids.
- Patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder were more likely than other patients to be deficient in vitamin D.
Furthermore, the study done at Massachusetts General also found, in mice, that when vitamin D deficiencies were corrected, the participants responses to opioids were likewise corrected, returning to normal.
In the battle against opioid addiction, these findings could be huge! Could it be that addressing vitamin D deficiency is the answer to the opioid crisis plaguing America?
While such a claim is still early in its notion of validity, the notion appears to be promising nonetheless!
It is, however, important to note that a visit to your doctor is necessary for determining whether or not you are deficient in vitamin D.
*And, as always, please seek help if you are struggling with opioid addiction (simply seeking to increase vitamin D levels on your own, without the aid of a physician to evaluate your case, is not advised).
Are YOU a victim of this deficiency? (affects 75-90% of Americans)
Let me ask you a question…
Do you feel achy?
Are you tired in the morning – even after a good night’s sleep?
Do you have skin problems – like irritability or blemishes on your face?
Do you feel under the weather more than once a year?
If you answered “yes” to one of those questions…
And especially if you answered “yes” to two or more…
You’re likely deficient in Vitamin D.
The International Society for Densitometry calls it, “The Silent Epidemic,” and some experts estimate that as high as 75-90% of Americans suffer from it.
And the scary part? Most people have NO IDEA and brush off those symptoms as a “normal” part of getting older.
You see, Vitamin D helps your body stay healthy as you age.
It works as a powerful antioxidant, helps control irritation, and – most importantly – supports optimal immune system function.
Meaning, if you’re deficient in vitamin D, and there’s a strong chance that your immune system may be undermined… This could take a toll on your overall well-being.
Luckily, there’s good news…Because there’s an easy way to protect yourself…
And it starts with taking Vitamin D every single morning.
But not just any type of vitamin D…
Otherwise, you won’t get the best results.