Gambling, Alcoholism and Alcoholic Hepatitis
Although alcoholism is not a prerequisite to alcoholic hepatitis or pathological gambling, all three of these predicaments are entangled in a web of similarities. Alcoholism is a chronic disease where a person is dependent on alcohol; alcoholic hepatitis is a condition that progressively harms the liver as more alcohol is consumed; and pathological gambling is an inability to stop gambling even when one recognizes that it is causing serious life problems. Each of their respective definitions makes them entities onto themselves. However, one single supplement can help all three of these problems.
Several of the facts supporting their intertwined web are:
- At their core, alcoholism and pathological gambling are both serious addictions.
- Abusing alcohol is the most straightforward path towards developing alcoholic hepatitis.
- As a treatment approach, supplementing with N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) has been shown to help alcoholism, alcoholic hepatitis and pathological gambling.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant found within every one of the body’s cells. Known to defend the cell it inhabits against damage, glutathione is often depleted with repeated exposure to toxins, increasing age and chronic disease. Rapidly metabolized to glutathione by the body, NAC is an amino acid supplement. Thus, it is used by many healthcare professionals to protect people’s cells from the universal cause of declining health, cellular damage.
According to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, approximately thirty percent of U.S. adults have experienced alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Alcohol abuse involves engaging in excessive drinking that causes health or social problems without a full loss of control or dependence on alcohol. Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes these four symptoms:
- Craving alcohol
- Loss of control – not being able to stop drinking
- Physical dependence – experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety after stopping drinking
- Tolerance – the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get high
With full commitment and support, alcoholism is considered to be treatable. Medications, counseling and self-help groups are among the therapies that can help an alcoholic recover. While taking NAC is not advised as part of this recovery, it can help protect the liver from alcohol’s damage. This is because of the following:
- Responsible for alcohol-induced liver damage, acetaldehyde is a toxic byproduct of alcohol consumption.
- N-Acetyl Cysteine binds to acetaldehyde, thus preventing its damaging effects.
Inflammation of the liver caused by alcohol consumption, alcoholic hepatitis does not necessarily result from an alcohol addiction. However, alcoholic hepatitis is more likely to develop in heavy drinkers than those who rarely or moderately indulge.
In those unable or unwilling to abstain from drinking alcohol, alcoholic hepatitis can easily progress to cirrhosis and liver failure. Unfortunately, it might be extremely difficult for those with an addiction to alcohol to quit – putting them most in danger of this fate.
Taking a supplement is not a substitute for alcohol abstinence. However, NAC can help the liver of someone with alcoholic hepatitis much in the same way that it may benefit an alcoholic. Because it can replenish depleted glutathione levels, those with all kinds of liver inflammatory diseases could benefit from NAC supplementation.
Although there is no substance that a person swallows, snorts, injects or smokes, pathological gambling is a problematic addiction. Compulsive gambling parallels alcohol and drug addiction in many ways, including losing control over one’s behavior and commonly lying and cheating in order to continue one’s addiction. Problematic gambling is more common among those who abuse or are dependent on alcohol than in those without an alcohol use disorder.
The action that compulsive gamblers crave is an aroused, euphoric state comparable to the high sought by drug users. This aroused state is accompanied by changes in brain chemistry similar to those caused by alcohol or drugs. Those with an addiction typically develop a tolerance to gambling much like alcoholics develop a tolerance to alcohol. In order to create the same amount of excitement, pathological gamblers often increase the size of their bets or the odds against them.
By the time most pathological gamblers seek help, they are in enormous debt and their relationships with friends and family members have been destroyed. Statistics show that about 80 percent of pathological gamblers seriously consider suicide, and 13 to 20 percent actually attempt it or kill themselves.
The gravity of this problem drove researchers at the University of Minnesota to look for unconventional solutions to pathological gambling. They discovered that supplementing with NAC might help curb pathological gamblers’ addiction. Published in the September 2007 edition of Biological Psychiatry, the researchers believe this has to do with NAC’s impact on brain chemistry. Because NAC affects glutamate, a chemical in the brain frequently associated with reward, NAC may help to control various types of addictions – including pathological gambling.
N-Acetyl Cysteine is far from a panacea for addictions or diseases characterized by liver inflammation. However, the more it is studied, the greater range of conditions it proves to aid. By replenishing depleted glutathione levels, protecting liver cells from damaging toxins and affecting the brain to reduce an addict’s need for reward, NAC possesses enormous healing potential. Until this amino acid’s full value is realized, supplementing with N-Acetyl Cysteine could help support those battling alcoholism, alcoholic hepatitis or pathological gambling.
Grant JE, et al, N-acetyl cysteine, a glutamate-modulating agent, in the treatment of pathological gambling: a pilot study, Biological Psychiatry, September 2007.
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