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Neurotransmitters as Predictive Biomarkers of Responsiveness to Substance Abuse Treatment

Judith Miller,PhD; David Marc,BS; Corena McManus,MS; Mike Bull,BS; Kelly Olson,PhD; Gottfried Kellermann,PhD

Evidence-based practices are becoming ever more important for the effective treatment of substance abuse disorders. Substance abuse places a substantial burden on society, as it can cause adverse health effects and contribute to destructive social behavior. Traditional treatment for substance abuse relies on pharmacological interventions and counseling, but new strategies are being explored. Of interest is the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches that target neurological functioning. Amino acid supplementation is one modality that may show promise as an adjunctive therapy in substance abuse programs. The purpose of this study was twofold; to examine the effects of amino acid supplementation in substance abuse patients and to identify novel predictive biomarkers that may aid in detecting ‘responders’ and ‘non-responders’ prior to beginning treatment. Patients at a residential rehabilitation facility provided urine specimens to monitor neurotransmitter levels before and three weeks following amino acid supplementation. Several amino acids demonstrated an increase in serotonin and taurine and a decrease in phenylethylamine (PEA) following three weeks of treatment. This study further demonstrated significantly higher baseline norepinephrine, serotonin, and PEA levels in the patients that managed to abstain from substance use following amino acid supplementation. Overall, results demonstrated that amino acid supplementation may be a promising addition to current substance abuse programs and that urinary neurotransmitters may serve as biomarkers to predict treatment responses in substance abuse patients.

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