Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is a coenzyme located in every living cell. It’s vital for life and serves numerous functions. Those include:
- Supporting reactions in each cell. Your cells must engage in many chemical reactions to help you digest your food, think, breathe, and do just about everything else necessary to stay alive.
- Supporting the role and function of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that help carry nerve signals. When neurotransmitters don’t work well, neither does your brain. The result can be a range of maladies, including depression, anxiety, and addiction.
- Helping drugs function more effectively. Many pharmaceutical drugs work directly or indirectly on NAD. What this means is that changes in NAD change the way drugs work—including potentially addictive drugs.
So why does NAD have a role in addiction treatment? Simple. We know that NAD levels tend to be lower in addicts. This may be due to a genetic predisposition, and could even help explain why some people are more vulnerable to addiction than others. It may also be that addiction lowers NAD.
When NAD levels are low, the brain can’t behave normally, and neither can the body. This might be a part of why addicts struggle with sound decision-making. Some may even use drugs as a way to compensate for the loss of NAD—even though those drugs further deplete NAD levels. This creates a vicious cycle in which addicts use the very thing that’s harming them to avoid the pain of addiction.
You already know that when you attempt to quit using, your body reacts with painful withdrawal. Known also as detox, this process can cause painful symptoms until drugs or alcohol leave your body. During detox, when the body is at its weakest, NAD levels can plummet even further. This makes detox more difficult than it needs to be.