The use of SAM-e for alcohol recovery is a topic that I learned about relatively late in my own transformation. I did not know what SAM-e was until over three years after I quit drinking! Looking back, I wish that I had incorporated it into my own supplement regimen, or at least given it a try.
I decided to research SAM-e after hearing great things from some of my private coaching clients. Some of them felt hopeless until they found SAM-e, which revitalized their mood almost overnight.
As with any supplement, not everyone responds the same way to SAM-e. But that is part of the beauty of nutritional repair: It is an individual journey that involves trial, error, and massive upside potential.
As we will see, SAM-e offers some powerful benefits for people struggling with depression after quitting alcohol. I definitely experienced depression, on and off, for many months after I quit drinking. Fortunately, I was able to resolve my own symptoms by using other supplements discussed on this website.
In this article, we will explore the mechanism of action behind SAM-e for alcohol recovery. We will then proceed to cover relevant research, dosage guidelines, and some further considerations.
Overview of SAM-e
All of our bodies contain SAM-e (S-Adenosylmethionine), which is a natural compound involved in producing hormones and neurotransmitters.
Over the past decade, emerging research has connected SAM-e deficiency with a number of health problems. As a dietary supplement, SAM-e is often used to relieve the following issues:
SAM-e is involved in over 35 biochemical processes in the body. SAM-e helps to regulate hormones and neurotransmitters and even facilitates the maintenance of cell membranes. (source)
In particular, SAM-e supplementation is known to increase the natural production of serotonin.
SAM-e has proven to be as effective as some antidepressants for people suffering from clinical depression. In addition to boosting serotonin levels, SAM-e also increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine.
As we will discuss, alcohol withdrawal results largely from the depletion of these natural brain chemicals. SAM-e supplementation can therefore help to alleviate the symptoms of protracted alcohol withdrawal.
How SAM-e Works For Alcohol Recovery
SAM-e is produced in the liver from an amino acid called methionine, which is found naturally foods like beef, eggs, and cheese. SAM-e is a cofactor for a cellular process called methylation. To make a long story short, methylation occurs throughout the body and is absolutely critical for the maintenance of health on a cellular level.
As you can see in the chart above, SAM-e is a precursor for glutathione, which is a very powerful antioxidant produced in the liver. Increasing glutathione levels can help to restore liver function during alcohol recovery.
Even more importantly, adequate levels of SAM-e are required for the last steps in the production of three important neurotransmitters:
Most drinkers subjectively understand the importance of these neurotransmitters. We feel giddy, blissful, or invincible while alcohol causes its (temporary) cascade of artificial neurotransmitter boosts.
What heavy drinkers fail to realize is that chronic alcohol consumption actually depletes the natural production of these neurotransmitters over time.
This is because our brains are highly adaptable. They accommodate the regular presence of alcohol by turning the dial down on the production of our natural feel-good brain chemicals.
Giddiness turns to dread, bliss gives way to panic, and the veneer of invincibility wears off. Alcohol begins to seem like the only remedy for our new baseline states of dreadful panic or morose, low-energy brooding.
For chronic drinkers, quitting alcohol is insufficient to restore proper neurotransmitter function. SAM-e is one of many supplements that can help individuals to regain their sense of well-being naturally after quitting alcohol.
In the proper dosage (more on this below), SAM-e can provide instant relief from symptoms of post-acute withdrawal. It is gentle enough to be consumed daily for a few weeks or months at a time.
With all of this said, SAM-e is not suitable for mitigating severe cases of alcohol withdrawal. If you are experiencing hallucinations or seizures, your best bet is to get professional care immediately. Because alcohol withdrawal complications involve severe imbalances in GABA and glutamate activity, a doctor will likely prescribe a benzodiazepine such as Ativan.
After detox, supplementing with compounds like SAM-e can be very helpful for bringing your alcohol recovery to the next level.
Note: Because SAM-e increases natural levels of serotonin significantly, it should not be taken with SSRI antidepressants except under a doctor’s supervision.
Research on SAM-e
Research supports the use of SAM-e for many symptoms involved in protracted alcohol withdrawal:
- SAM-e significantly reduces symptoms of depression, with scientists calling for further investigation. (source)
- Clinical trials have shown that SAM-e is as effective as prescription antidepressants, with fewer side effects. This makes SAM-e a good option if alcohol withdrawal is causing depression. (source)
- In addition to its antidepressant effects, SAM-e is very safe at recommended dosages because it is an essential amino acid. (source)
- In treating alcoholic liver injury, SAM-e can attenuate the pain and effects caused by alcohol and other hepatotoxins. (source)
- SAM-e offers promise for treating alcoholic liver disease because it is a precursor for glutathione, an antioxidant produced in the liver. (source)
Because SAM-e may help to alleviate depression and restore liver health, further research on SAM-e for alcohol recovery should be conducted.
If you have recently quit drinking alcohol, 800-1600 mg per day of a high-quality SAM-e supplement may help to alleviate the depression and sluggish liver that often accompany protracted alcohol withdrawal.
However, because I am cautious with supplements I have not taken before, I would personally start with 200 mg. Many people have begun to feel noticeably better after using this smaller dosage of SAM-e.
I would therefore start with Nature Made SAM-e 200mg Tablets.
If I responded well to 200mg (or if I felt nothing), I would increase the dosage until I reached the optimal level. The reviews on Amazon for this product indicate that SAM-e at a dosage of 200mg is effective for many people.
SAM-e has a short half-life, meaning that its effects are noticeable within minutes and last for only a few hours after each dose.
Too much SAM-e prior to bedtime can cause insomnia because it generally increases energy levels, due to its restoration of the body’s supply of norepinephrine (an energy-promoting neurotransmitter).
If I were trying to beat alcohol addiction all over again, I would take SAM-e along with other natural supplements to repair my body and brain from alcohol damage.
The right blend of supplements can act synergistically with each other. For example, SAM-e requires vitamin B12 and folate to be utilized properly by the body. It therefore makes sense to take SAM-e along with extra B-vitamins.
As always, please consult with your doctor before beginning new supplements or lifestyle changes.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article about the use of SAM-e for alcohol recovery. I will continue to be on the lookout for new supplements that hold promise for enhancing alcohol recovery.
My drinking days are long gone, and now I live an exciting lifestyle that revolves in large part around optimizing my body and brain.
There is a definite learning curve here. 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 serotonin-enhancing lifestyle strategies into your daily routine:
- Work out daily
- Get better sleep
- Clean up your diet
- Meditate each morning
- Improve your posture (this works!)
If you have any questions about SAM-e for alcohol recovery, please leave them in the comment box below.