Cautionary Tale–Amino Acids

Update: Amino acids, can be risky when taken during withdrawal or at times of severe emotional crisis. They can have radical negative side-effects that are often not realized by those experimenting because they’re natural. In fact there is nothing terribly natural about taking isolated nutrients and one should be aware of that. Since this article was first written I’ve seen people have really radically bad reactions to aminos. This included people who were consulting with alternative doctors who had not seen people in withdrawal and did not understand such sensitivities. I’m not suggesting they’re never appropriate but they should be carefully studied and one should be aware of their risks.

this page was written before I knew much of anything about withdrawal. The first year I was writing on this website.

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So I did something stupid yesterday and I’m paying for it by not sleeping tonight. It’s 3 am. I’ve been up half an hour and only got to sleep at midnight. My normal bedtime is 10:30.

I took some amino acids. Perhaps you don’t know the power of amino acids. I suppose I didn’t either, though I had fair warning. I decided to experiment with them as my energy levels have been so bad. I will give a crash course in the kinds of amino acids used for mood problems. There are the excitory amino acids and the inhibitory amino acids. I guess it’s obvious from the names that the excitory amino acids are stimulating by nature and the inhibitory ones are calming. So they are appropriately used for either depression or fatigue and also over-stimulation and anxiety.

I started playing with GABA while suffering from PMS. I wanted to calm down. It seemed to help. GABA is the primary inhibitory amino acid. It works both to calm and can have an antidepressant effect as well. It seemed to help out. Then I added Taurine, another inhibitory amino acid. Again no problem. Sleeping better and calmer while still suffering from PMS. GABA production is seriously messed with by benzodiazepines. I’m quite sure I’m deficient as I go into tolerance withdrawal from the benzo’s every night. So I’m not surprised I had a positive effect from the GABA.

During this time I had purchased the book “The Mood Cure,” by Julia Ross which is actually an excellent book. She uses a lot of amino acids among other things, especially diet, and concentrates on depressions. While I am not depressed in the way I used to be, I am extremely fatigued which causes a kind of low grade chronic depression. I don’t consider it true depression, but I hoped that I could treat it with amino acids. Ross warns that people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder should be careful and perhaps not even use excitory amino acids as they can trigger manias. Well…I chose to ignore the warning and I tried 3 excitory amino acids yesterday. Tyrosine, Glutamine and Phenylalaline. At this point, it makes me think of going out and trying cocaine for a boost. I simply ignored her warning. I was stupid and reckless and took them all. I could have started with one at a small dose and seen how it went. That would have been the reasonable thing to do. To be cautious. You see…I still suffer from impulsiveness. I was simply tired of being so exhausted and fatigued. I wanted relief and acted like a drug addict. Truly…I still have a bit of that left in me. It was, however, amino acids and not cocaine. The issue, nonetheless, is still looking for the quick fix. That is in part what got me on so many psychiatric drugs to begin with. My part in that deal was running to my doctor begging for a fix. So, sometimes I’m not so different even now. I still, sometimes, have a low tolerance for discomfort. I’m getting better, but I’m still, as we see now, prone to look for the quick fix from time to time.

In any case, I’m not sleeping. I’m also not hyper and hope I didn’t trigger anything longer lasting than a sleepless night. My mom and step-dad are coming Friday for 5 days and then I have to go across country to help relocate my dad on the 12th. I’m really stressed out. Another stupid reason to try this now. I need to be stable now more than usual. I was simply not thinking.

In any case, I don’t think that amino acids are necessarily damned. I just think you need someone to monitor their use. Or at least be lots and lots more cautious. I know of people who successfully use them to manage mood and energy fluctuations.  I may still, sometime in the future, if I come out of this relatively unscathed, very carefully try them again. But for now I have to be sure I didn’t trigger something that is going to get out of control.

Another thing to add here is that really I was doing fine. Fatigue being my only problem. Why mess with a relatively good thing? I was withdrawing from my meds slowly and steadily. I may have to hold now for awhile if I made myself unstable in some way. Shit. Enough. But I’m really mad at myself.

Okay, I wrote the above yesterday. I managed to go back to bed at 4 am and sleep really poorly for a couple of hours after I wrote the above. Then last night I was back to normal. No harm done. I have come to the conclusion, however, that I need to accept a certain degree of discomfort for the rest of the time I am withdrawing. That includes extreme exhaustion. The woman who is giving me the most advice on withdrawal insists that I cannot possibly find a simple solution to the exhaustion because it is such a complex issue. The drugs interrupt so many of our bodily functions that we just have to wait until our bodies are free from the toxins. I will not add anything else into my seemingly strong nutritional protocol as long as I’m withdrawing steadily with no real problems. Messing with stability is just plain stupid.

I’ve decided that once I’m drug free, I will go get my adrenal glands tested and maybe my hormones too. Those two things very well may be making me unwell, but for now there is too much crap in my system to unravel anything. The hormonal issue, is of course really a problem. I’m quite unwell during PMS. I want menopause to come along. I’m about 8 years from it though.

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters

9 Responses

  1. Stephany

    Margo Kidder, I think was hiding in bushes at LAX[airport]. Have you ever used Bragg Liquid Aminos ? it’s really good stuff. It’s like a soy sauce type of flavoring, that you can add to salad, brown rice, etc. and has the Aminos in it. I use that on everything.
    PMS is a really big topic. I’ve written some on my blog about hormones and mental illness, and have more to write. Lindsay is on BC pills for the polycystic ovary syndrome that was left behind from Depakote: but when the docs induced a period to confirm she had a uterus[yeah]she went literally insane. It was awful.The specialist has her on BC pills without placebos/ she does not have periods at all to prevent this hormone induced insanity. I understand what you are going through, and in my opinion, women’s hormones are far more complex than docs know what to do about; and I’m convinced that it’s more often than not, with many women, hormones out of whack and not mental illness.

    Good luck–Stephany

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  2. Ruth

    I must confess my complete and utter ignorance on the subject. Are these amino acids available in raw form, or do you just eat foods that are supposed to contain a significant amount of the desired acid? Isn’t Taurine the stuff that’s in energy drinks – if it’s inhibitory, it should presumably slow you down rather than speed you up – or maybe they chuck it in to take the edge off the guarana (another amino acid)? Isn’t phenylaline in every diet drink known to woman? I assumed it was just some kind of sweetener that was probably very very bad for me!

    Anyway, with energy levels flattened by Zoloft withdrawal, your post has made me very curious and keen to investigate further, and to figure out what the retailing situation is down under.

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  3. Gianna

    Hi…this will be a response to both of you.

    Stephany,
    Hormones, indeed, are sometimes the cause of “mental illness.” I’ve not mentioned this before on this site–perhaps I should at some point–but my first several hospitalizations (psychosis triggered by halluninogens) were all linked to my menstrual cycle. I would peak out with mania, land in the psych ward and the following day my menses would start. So…my psychosis/mania was indeed pre-menstrual. I also have endometriosis and was treated with BC pills at an early age and the BC pills made me crazy…I didn’t realize that was the cause until I went off of them and was fine again. In any case….BC pills can cause instability too. I don’t know enough about the condition your daughter has…BC pills may be appropriate. (I was on Depakote a long time and was very lucky not to develop polycystic ovary syndrome.) I didn’t know anything about it until recently and was furious that my doctor never told me of the risk. Anyway, I, like you, may talk more about hormones and mental illness at some point, but I don’t know enough at this point and unfortunately, like so many issues with mental health, there is not enough information out there.

    (I’ve tried Braggs before…it is yummy…you’re right)

    Ruth,
    If you are interested in trying amino acids I highly recommend the book I mentioned “the Mood Cure” she not only goes into amino acids but diet in general.

    Amino acids are available in pill form here in the states. I don’t know if they ship to Australia, but a really good internet company for supplements is vitacost.com. They sell everything at cost. I know they ship to the UK. They have most amino acids available as far as I know.

    Anyway, you’re right about Taurine…it is in energy drinks. I think you’re also right about it taking the edge off. It creates a feeling of well being with the guarana. Guarana is not an amino acid…it is a kind of caffeine from a plant source.

    Anyway…if you choose to try the amino acids go slow and easy! I may try again someday, but I’m waiting until I’m off drugs and know my body in that state. Perhaps I won’t need additional energy. That would be the ideal. I probably need to give my body a good year to heal after the withdrawal is complete as well.

    thanks for the comments…both were very interesting.

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  4. Skeptic

    I would be careful of any claim by individuals based on anecdotal evidence, and rely only on peer-reviewed articles. I made the mistake some years ago of adding ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) to my list of supplements, to enhance brain function.What was not known then is that ALA is also a medium-strength anti-depressant, so it fills you with a warm glow. This was good. But when my supply ran out for a week, and I neglected to buy more, I fell into a deep funk that was very much like depression. I quickly bought more ALA, took one capsule literally on my way out the door of the health food store, and within half a block my mood lifted. Over the next day I had some ups and downs, so I resolved to get off the ALA– I don’t want to be hooked on anything.

    So again, the warning: Don’t use anything whose effects, side effects and containdications have not been researched professionally, by medical doctors, with control groups for safety, and published in peer-reviewed journals. If you use anything else, you are taking a much larger risk than you think.

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