There are very few supplements that I put in the “miracle” category, but magnesium for alcohol withdrawal is definitely one of them. Many months after I quit drinking, I used magnesium to put an end to most of my post-acute withdrawal symptoms, which included:
Even though I had begun to restore my brain health with a multivitamin, extra B-vitamins, and fish oil, it wasn’t until I began taking magnesium that the above symptoms finally abated.
It’s not easy to reverse a magnesium deficiency with diet changes alone. To put it simply, if you’ve ever had a problem with alcohol, it’s very likely that you’re still deficient in magnesium.
After reading this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of the benefits of using magnesium for alcohol withdrawal (including post-acute withdrawal). You’ll also know where to obtain the highest quality magnesium supplements and what dosage to use for your symptoms.
Overview of Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral that is required for over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body.
Specifically, magnesium performs several key functions:
Many doctors recommend magnesium supplementation to maintain cardiovascular health for people with heart problems.
Because chronic alcohol exposure causes damage to every organ in the body, it makes intuitive sense that magnesium supplementation can help alleviate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Moreover, heavy drinking significantly depletes magnesium from our bodies over time. Just one drink increases magnesium excretion by 100%. Imagine how much magnesium is lost when a person drinks 10-20 drinks per day for months on end! I once fell into this category.
Magnesium can be obtained from foods like spinach, avocados, and almonds. Unfortunately, our soil has much less magnesium than it did before the advent of industrial farming.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include the following:
- Memory problems
- Muscle twitches
Serum blood tests can be misleading because most of the magnesium in our bodies is stored in our bones, muscles, and brains. As it turns out, only 1% of magnesium is stored in the blood!
It is common for blood tests to report “normal” levels of magnesium for people who have a magnesium deficiency.
It is not necessary to determine the exact extent of your magnesium deficiency, for two reasons:
- Magnesium for alcohol withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal is very safe
- If you’ve been a heavy drinker for months or years, you almost certainly have some degree of magnesium deficiency
Before I quit drinking, I would take occasional epsom salt baths and feel as though I might not have to drink that night. Of course, I usually ended up drinking anyway.
Epsom salt baths contain magnesium that is readily absorbed through the skin.
I never put two and two together. I never realized that much of the pain of alcohol withdrawal, which led to my severe cravings, was caused by severe magnesium deficiency!
It all became crystal clear to me on one evening, months after I quit drinking alcohol, when I finally decided to try an oral magnesium supplement. My restlessness went away, I slept like a baby, and I felt like my energy levels had reached an unprecedented high the next day.
Looking back, it’s frustrating for me to think about how long it took to solve this problem. The good news is that you don’t have to wait as long as I did to fix your alcohol-induced magnesium deficiency!
How Alcohol Causes Magnesium Deficiency
Alcohol depletes magnesium in three main ways:
- Liquid meals – Many alcoholics simply don’t consume enough quality foods that contain magnesium, often obtaining more calories from alcohol than food
- Diuretic toxin – One study found that just 30 ml of alcohol resulted in a 167% increase in magnesium excretion in the urine – an effect that lasted for two hours! (source)
- Stress hormones – Chronic alcohol use increases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which require large amounts of magnesium for their production
I should also note that chronic alcohol use damages the lining of the stomach and intestines, leading to problems absorbing nutrients. It can take weeks or months for an alcoholic to restore gut health, even with a proper diet and nutritional supplementation.
This is why, in addition to supplementing with magnesium, I highly recommend taking probiotics and digestive enzymes.
These will help to restore balance to your gut and increase the absorption of everything you consume. I have found high quality pancreatic enzymes at my local health food store and I drink kombucha on a regular basis.
Scientific research supports the use of magnesium for alcohol withdrawal:
- As early as 1934, alcoholism was identified as the cause of low magnesium serum levels by causing excess magnesium excretion through the urine. (source)
- A scientific paper concludes that chronic alcoholics should receive IV infusion of magnesium, thiamine, and other B-vitamins to help restore nutrient depletion from alcoholism. (source)
- A study found that magnesium sulfate (i.e., epsom salts) diminishes the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and reduces the need for benzodiazepines like ativan.
- A randomized clinical trial found that using magnesium for alcohol withdrawal can reduce the risk of death from alcoholic liver disease. (source)
- Magnesum deficiency in alcoholics increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. (source)
- Magnesium competes with a stress chemical called glutamate at the receptor site, thereby reducing stress while also mildly stimulating GABA, which is the brain’s calming chemical. (source)
Consider these multiple benefits of using magnesium for alcohol withdrawal:
Magnesium can provoke a modest stimulation for the [GABA system] and is capable of reducing the oxidative stress in the brain, lowering the concentration of neurotoxic substances stimulating both synaptogenesis and neurogenesis in the limbic cortex, acting as an ameliorator in mid-crisis alcohol abstinence. [emphasis added; source]
My intensely positive experience with magnesium supplementation may have meant that I was getting a variety of benefits at once:
This last benefit occurs primarily in the limbic cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for intense alcohol cravings. I definitely noticed a significant decrease in my alcohol cravings during the period that I began supplementing with magnesium!
If you’re suffering from severe alcohol withdrawal, get professional help immediately. After detoxing, you can return to this site to learn how to address your nutrient deficiencies.
If you have recently quit drinking alcohol, you will want to consume at least 50-100 mg per day of a high quality magnesium supplement to repair your system.
Alcoholics who begin supplementing with magnesium 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 magnesium supplementation.
When I finally read about the benefits of magnesium for alcohol withdrawal, I took 250 mg of magnesium taurate, which is very well absorbed. However, I currently use magnesium citrate and this form of magnesium is absorbed just as well.
Do not use magnesium oxide, which is available at most grocery stores, but which is very poorly absorbed and can lead to diarrhea.
If I had to do it all over again, I would start by taking Calm Support, which delivers a daily dose of 54 mg of high quality magnesium citrate per day. You can also kill several birds (or deficiencies) with one stone, since Calm Support contains many compounds that have been proven to alleviate alcohol withdrawal.
Your ideal magnesium dosage, and the duration that you’ll need to use magnesium for alcohol withdrawal, will depend entirely on the severity of your drinking problem.
I was often drinking two fifths a day of hard alcohol by the time I quit!
This explains why I experienced such relief from a large dose (250 mg) of magnesium many months after I’d quit drinking.
If you want to megadose magnesium like I did, then I recommend taking Calm Support along with magnesium citrate by Thorne Research. This is the brand that I now use, and each capsule contains 135 mg of magnesium citrate.
If I wanted to address a pronounced magnesium deficiency by megadosing magnesium for alcohol withdrawal, I would take:
In total, I would be taking a little over 300 mg of magnesium citrate per day. This is a safe amount for the duration (probably a month or two) that it would take to restore my system.
Always consult with your doctor before beginning new supplements or lifestyle changes.
If you’ve enjoyed learning about how to use magnesium for alcohol withdrawal, be sure to read my article on alcohol recovery supplements. In that article and others like it, I’m not arguing that you need to take every remedy I discuss.
With nutritional repair and natural remedies, trial and error is the best approach. I’ve never had a bad reaction to vitamins or natural supplements. Some have simply worked much better than others. Magnesium is one of several “miracle supplements” that have changed my life.
Despite all of the pharmaceutical options for alcohol addiction, scientists have long understood the necessity of using basic nutrients like magnesium for alcohol withdrawal and biochemical restoration.
High quality supplements are much safer than prescription drugs that merely mask the symptoms of underlying nutrient deficiencies. Untreated deficiencies can cause serious complications down the road, including depression and degenerative disease.
If you have any questions about how to use magnesium for alcohol withdrawal, please post them in the comment box below.