Vitamin D deficiency exacerbates the effects of opioids and addiction to their intake: the study, conducted by an international team of scientists led by Massachusetts General Hospital (Usa), shows a side effect of this insufficiency never previously hypothesized.
Not having enough vitamin D greatly increases the craving for opioids and enhances their effects, effectively increasing the risk of becoming dependent on them. The results suggest an alternative way to address the common problem of vitamin D deficiency through inexpensive supplements that could play a role in fighting the ongoing plague of opiate addiction.
Read also: Vitamin D: symptoms and consequences of a deficiency
In 2007, the team discovered that exposure to ultraviolet rays, and in particular to the form called UVB, causes the skin to produce the hormone endorphin, which is chemically related to morphine, heroin and other opioids, activating all of the same receptors in the body. brain.
L’endorphin it is sometimes called the “feel-good hormone” because it induces a sense of mild euphoria. Previous research had shown that some people develop a desire to sunbathe and visit tanning salons with behaviors similar to those of opiate addicts.
But at this point scientists have wondered why we should be attracted to the most common carcinogen that exists, namely UV rays, a major cause of malignant skin tumors. The apparent evolutionary contradiction could be resolved in one way: humans seek UV rays because they seek vitamin D which they cannot produce in any other way and which promotes the absorption of calcium, which is essential for building bones.
Since human tribes migrated north during prehistoric times, an evolutionary alteration may therefore have been necessary to force them out of the caves and sunbathe on very cold days. Otherwise, young children would have died of prolonged vitamin D deficiency (the cause of rickets) and their weak bones could have shattered as they ran away from predators, leaving them vulnerable.
We have found that modulating vitamin D levels changes multiple addictive behaviors from both UV rays and opioids
The study also suggested that morphine works more effectively as a pain reliever in vitamin D deficiency, which could be concerning if it were confirmed as an effect in humans: a surgical patient receiving morphine for pain control after an operation. could have in fact more likely to become addicted.
The data, so far collected in a laboratory study, was supported by several accompanying analyzes of human medical records: one of these showed that patients with moderately low vitamin D levels had the 50% more chance compared to others with normal levels of using opioids, while those with severe vitamin D deficiency had the 90% more likely, while another analysis found that patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder (OUD) were more likely than others to be vitamin D deficient.
On the other hand though, if everything is confirmed, vitamin D could be used as support in the fight against opiate addiction.
The work was published on Science Advances.
Sources of reference: Massachusetts General Hospital / Science Advances
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