advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
NAC or N-acetyl L-cysteine for OCD?

Have you been following the studies on the use of NAC for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and alcoholism?

A
Answer (Published 1/13/2012)

NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is a modified form of the amino acid cysteine that helps the body synthesize glutathione, an important antioxidant. It is available as a dietary supplement and as a prescription drug. NAC is used to treat acetaminophen (a common pain reliever) poisoning as well as chronic bronchitis, and may be useful in treating or preventing a number of conditions ranging from heart attacks and strokes in people with kidney disease to compulsive hair pulling - a disorder called trichotillomania believed to be related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Mood Support - A healthy outlook on life is a cornerstone of optimal health. The good news: proper diet, lifestyle, exercise and prudent supplemental nutrition can all help support an optimistic disposition. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Recommendation today.

NAC is also being studied as a treatment for OCD in children. That study, at Yale University, is focusing on children ages eight to 17 who haven't shown improvement after using today's standard pediatric OCD treatment: cognitive behavior therapy and serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.

The Yale researchers noted that NAC has been shown to be effective among adults with trichotillomania, and in other trials it has been modestly useful in bipolar depression, schizophrenia and cocaine dependence. They also reported that the only side effect commonly seen with NAC is nausea and that this seldom occurs at the doses being used for their trial. The Yale study is scheduled to end in July of 2012. 

In adults, OCD is also treated with psychotherapy and drugs including SSRIs. If that strategy doesn't work, an older antidepressant called clomipramine (Anafranil) may be prescribed. Many practitioners now recommend taking fish oil supplements, because the omega-3 fatty acids they provide are effective in a wide range of psychological conditions. Taking two to four grams per day may help. Researchers are also looking at whether psilocybin, the active component in psychedelic mushrooms, taken in carefully controlled conditions, can help curb OCD.

The biochemical rationale for using NAC for treatment of OCD stems from findings that abnormal levels of glutamate, the brain's most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter, may contribute to the disorder. (Animal studies at the Medical University of South Carolina have found that NAC can lower levels of brain glutamate). If NAC is effective, it would have some significant advantage over standard treatment: it is inexpensive, has no significant side effects and is available without a prescription. However, evidence that NAC can help OCD patients "remains extremely thin," in the words of the Yale researchers, even though other well-controlled studies have shown that NAC is potentially beneficial for treatment of compulsive and impulsive behaviors including pathological gambling and drug craving. I've seen no studies demonstrating that NAC is useful for treating alcoholism.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here