Not all supplements for alcohol recovery produce immediate effects, but L-theanine for alcohol withdrawal stands out for its ability to induce immediate relaxation. Months after I quit drinking, I discovered that L-theanine helped to end my post-acute withdrawal symptoms, including:
As soon as I quit drinking, I began taking a multivitamin, extra B-vitamins, and fish oil. While these basic nutrients helped, I did not feel totally stable until I discovered amino acids like L-theanine, L-glutamine, and DLPA.
After reading this article, you will have a clear understanding of the benefits of using L-theanine for alcohol withdrawal (including post-acute withdrawal). You will also know where to obtain the highest quality L-theanine supplements and what dosage is considered safe and effective.
Overview of L-Theanine
L-theanine is an amino acid primarily known for its relaxing effects. It is contained naturally in green tea, helping to balance out the stimulating and jittery effects of caffeine. Over the past decade, L-theanine supplements have become popular among people interested in natural health and nootropics.
L-theanine reduces levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone, and has been found to reduce abrupt blood pressure spikes in people who are experiencing stress.
As a dietary supplement, L-theanine can help to relieve the following issues:
L-theanine is similar in structure to a stress chemical in the brain called glutamate. Glutamate causes increased electrical activity in the brain, a state which anyone who has experienced alcohol withdrawal can relate to. When L-theanine plugs into glutamate receptors, it prevents glutamate from binding to these receptors and causing panic and jitters.
L-theanine may have a long-term protective benefit for brain cells, since many neurodegenerative conditions have been linked to excitotoxicity caused by high glutamate levels. (source)
L-theanine is an analogue of another amino acid known as L-glutamine, and can also serve as a building block for natural GABA production. Ingesting L-theanine increases the brain’s natural supply of GABA. Since GABA and glutamate balance each other out in the brain, more GABA activity results in less glutamate activity.
Scientific research indicates that L-theanine also boosts levels of other important chemicals in the brain:
Because alcohol withdrawal largely results from the depletion of these natural brain chemicals, it makes intuitive sense that L-theanine supplementation can help to alleviate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
As mentioned above, many people enjoy L-theanine simply by drinking green tea. However, the beneficial effects of L-theanine are more pronounced when this natural compound is isolated from caffeine and taken in supplement form.
The GABA/Glutamate Mechanism
L-theanine exerts subtle effects on a range of neurotransmitters, but its most noticeable effect is relaxation. This is the case because it acts most powerfully on the brain’s GABA and glutamate system. In this section, we will review the importance of GABA and glutamate for the person who has recently quit drinking and is experiencing alcohol withdrawal.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that dampens activity in the brain and causes a sensation of relaxation. GABA is perhaps the most important neurotransmitter involved in alcohol addiction, and also intuitively the easiest one to understand.
Most drinkers subjectively understand the experience of alcohol influencing their GABA receptors. Up to a certain point, the outside world seems to slow down to a manageable pace.
People who drink to relax are essentially drinking to activate their GABA receptors.
Many people start drinking excessively because of an inherent deficiency in GABA production. Once dependence on alcohol occurs, natural GABA production is guaranteed to decline – even after a person stops drinking!
This is the case because the brain compensates for the repeated presence of alcohol by decreasing natural GABA production.
While alcohol impersonates GABA, it indirectly releases endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and several other “feel good” neurotransmitters. All of these effects blend into the state of mind that we know as alcohol intoxication.
During alcohol withdrawal, GABA levels plunge (along with levels of these other feel-good chemicals). This is the natural result of having adapted to the presence of alcohol by turning the dial down on natural GABA production.
When GABA levels fall, glutamate surges – causing hyperexcitability, nervousness, panic attacks, insomnia, and even hallucinations.
Now you understand why L-theanine is uniquely suitable for helping to soothe alcohol withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. In the proper dosage (more on this below), it can provide instant relief from these symptoms – and it is gentle enough to be consumed daily for extended periods of time.
With all of this said, L-theanine is not potent enough to mitigate severe cases of alcohol withdrawal. If you are experiencing hallucinations or seizures, your best bet is to get professional care immediately. Doctors will likely prescribe a powerful benzodiazepine such as Ativan. After detox, amino acids can be very helpful to prevent post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
My Experience with L-Theanine
I did not discover L-theanine until months after I’d quit drinking. Because I had a very severe case of alcohol addiction, I was admitted to detox and given a tapered dose of benzodiazepines for nearly two weeks.
It took me months of research to identify natural compounds such as L-theanine for alcohol withdrawal. While I was done with the acute phase of alcohol withdrawal, I had post-acute withdrawal symptoms – including intermittent bouts of anxiety and insomnia – for many months after I quit drinking.
I recall that when I first began taking L-theanine, my nightly routine consisted of chamomile tea. I noticed that the addition of 50-100mg of L-theanine really helped me to relax and cut down on the amount of time I needed to fall asleep.
I continued taking L-theanine for about 3 months to help me wind down in the evenings. At the time, I had not even studied the basic biochemistry that we have covered in this article. I simply knew that I felt better – more relaxed, more positive – when I took L-theanine in the evenings.
Over time, I added additional supplements to my regimen, keeping what worked for me and discarding what did not work. This process of trial and error led to many epiphanies and a steadily increasing sense of well-being. Eventually, I achieved mental stability and even stopped missing alcohol.
Looking back, it’s frustrating for me to think about how long it took me to discover natural remedies for post-acute withdrawal. The good news is that you don’t have to wait as long as I did to fix your alcohol-induced neurotransmitter imbalances and move on with your life!
Research on L-Theanine
Scientific research supports the use of L-theanine for alcohol withdrawal:
- L-theanine reduces the concentration of alcohol in the blood of drinkers and prevents alcoholic liver injury by enhancing antioxidant capability of liver cells. (source, source)
- Alcohol addiction involves an increase in the number of glutamate receptors, which amino acids like L-theanine and L-glutamine can fill to help prevent withdrawal symptoms. (source)
- In addition to its well-established relaxing effects, L-theanine has antipsychotic and antidepressant effects. (source)
- L-theanine crosses the blood-brain barrier and exerts a variety of effects, including increasing GABA activity, modulating serotonin and dopamine, increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and increasing cognitive performance through its actions on NMDA receptors. (source)
- 8 weeks of L-theanine administration to depressed patients produced multiple beneficial effects on depressive symptoms, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and cognitive impairments. (source)
- A study in mice found that L-theanine exerts a neuro-protective effect that is mediated by GABA-A receptors. (source)
- L-theanine can help with nicotine withdrawal by significantly inhibiting the rewarding effects of nicotine. (source)
If you have recently quit drinking alcohol, 50-200 mg per day of a high quality L-theanine supplement can help to alleviate the anxiety and insomnia that often accompany protracted (post-acute) alcohol withdrawal.
People who begin supplementing with L-theanine usually begin to feel noticeably better. Depending on the severity of the alcohol problem or gut damage that inhibits absorption, it may take a few weeks before feeling any positive effects from L-theanine supplementation.
When I finally learned about L-theanine for alcohol withdrawal, I took 100mg Suntheanine chewable tablets. This brand works very well, but I always had to brush my teeth afterwards because the chewables got stuck in my back molars.
If I had to do it all over again, I would simply take Calm Support, which contains 80mg per serving and, if taken as directed, 160mg per day.
This dosage will be effective for the vast majority of people who are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety or insomnia due to alcohol withdrawal.
Always consult with your doctor before beginning new supplements or lifestyle changes.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article about the use of L-theanine for alcohol withdrawal. I will continue to be on the lookout for new supplements that hold promise for enhancing alcohol recovery.
My drinking days are long gone. I live an exciting lifestyle that revolves in large part around optimizing my body and brain. There is a definite learning curve here, and I know that trial and error with supplementation can be frustrating.
If you’ve recently quit drinking, frame early recovery as your own individual journey and enjoy the ride. In the meantime, be sure to optimize your own lifestyle by integrating some GABA-enhancing lifestyle strategies into your daily routine:
If you have any questions about L-theanine for alcohol withdrawal, please leave them in the comment box below.