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S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe)

S-adenosyl methionine, commonly abbreviated as SAMe, is an essential amino acid found naturally in the body. It helps form, activate, and break down a variety of other naturally occurring chemicals, such as hormones, proteins, and certain medications. Among the compounds that it helps form are several that play important roles in depression and pain management.

Some people are unable to produce healthy amounts of SAMe on their own. Because of this, it has been available as a supplement in the US for nearly 20 years, and even longer in Europe. SAMe is generally taken to alleviate the symptoms of depression and osteoarthritis, and some studies suggest that it may be equally effective in treating symptoms of depression as more conventional medications and may be especially useful for those who do not respond to these medications. It is also used for anxiety, heart disease, dementia, abdominal pain, and more.

Depression and anxiety are both common problems for those struggling with addiction, and may have played a role in the development of the addiction in the first place. They can also be major hurdles for those who are trying to get clean. Because of this, treatment with SAMe could reduce negative feelings and dependency on drugs and thus make the recovery process easier. While scientific research investigating the use of SAMe for those trying to overcome addiction is lacking, many former addicts do report success in using it to help them quit.

SAMe can be taken as a pill, intravenously, or as an injection. The pill version can be purchased over the counter, though the latter two must be administered by a medical professional. The dosage and length of time one should take SAMe for will vary depending on how it is being administered, what the desired effect is, and individual differences. Your doctor can tell you which option is best for your own situation.

Side-effects from SAMe are not common, but do occur. They include nausea, upset stomach, and other digestive issues, as well as dry mouth, headache, insomnia, anorexia, sweating, and dizziness, though many of these are only observed at higher doses. SAMe should not be taken by those with bipolar disorder and may interact negatively with Parkinson's disease. It is also worth noting that this treatment can become expensive if it is used for long periods of time.

Scientific Studies:

A 1990 study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry studied S-adenosyl methionine and its use as an oral antidepressant. 15 inpatients with major depression participated, and were given either SAMe or a placebo. The results suggested that "S-adenosylmethionine is a safe, effective antidepressant with few side effects and a rapid onset of action." The authors concluded by saying that SAMe could be especially useful for patients who cannot have tricyclic antidepressants, though it should be noted that SAMe was found to induce mania in some patients.

Another 1990 study, this one published in The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, found that S-adenosylmethionine concentrations in cerebrospinal fluid were significantly lower in severely depressed patients than in a control group, and that these levels could be brought back up by intravenous or oral administration of SAMe.

In 1994, researchers examined the relationship between levels of SAMe in the blood and clinical response in patients diagnosed with major depression. The effects of orally-administered SAMe were compared to those of orally-administered desipramine in 26 patients over a 4-week period. At the end of the trial, 62% of those treated with SAMe and 50% treated with desipramine showed significant improvements. For both treatments, people with 50% decrease in Hamilton Depression Scale score showed significant increases in concentrations of SAMe in the blood. The authors concluded the study by stating that SAMe may play an important role in depression and mood regulation.

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