Could Ginger be the next big weapon in the fight against narcotic addiction?

Unknown-1Here are a few facts on Heroin and Opiate addiction from Caron.org:

Opiate abuse and addiction is a dangerous, costly problem in the United States.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports the following statistics regarding opiate abuse in the United States:

  • Statistics show that Opiate abuse and Opiate addiction cost Americans over $484 billion annually. This amount includes healthcare costs and abuses of the healthcare system, lost wages, car accidents, crime, and criminal justice system costs.[1]
  • Opiate use and addiction is linked to at least 50 percent of the major crimes in the United States; at least half of all suspects arrested for violent crimes (homicide, assault, etc.) were under the influence of opiates when arrested.[2]
  • Reports indicate that nearly two-thirds of people in Opiate abuse treatment report were physically or sexually abused as children. [3]
  • The 2002 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reported that in 2002, heroin-related hospital Emergency Department episodes numbered 93,519.[4]
  • According to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 3.7 million people had used heroin at some time in their lives, and over 119,000 of them reported using it within the month preceding the survey. An estimated 314,000 Americans used heroin in the past year. The group that represented the highest number of those users was 26 or older. Additionally, 57.4 percent of past year heroin users were classified with dependence on or abuse of heroin; an estimated 281,000 persons received treatment for heroin abuse.[5]
  • In 2006, approximately 20.4 million Americans aged 12 or older were current (past month) illicit Opiate users. [6]
  • According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Web Site), 605,000 Americans age 12 and older had abused heroin at least once in the year prior to being surveyed.
  • According to the Monitoring the Future survey, NIDA’s nationwide annual survey of drug use among the Nation’s 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders, heroin use remained stable from 2003 to 2004. Lifetime heroin use measured 1.6 percent among 8th-graders and 1.5 percent among 10th- and 12th-graders.[7]

[7] http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Heroin/heroin2.html#scope

I came across an interesting research study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology using Ginger to Prevent Opiate Dependence and Tolerance in rats.  In this study, lab rats were given escalating doses of morphine over time, making them dependent on the drug.  The study group was given Ginger 50mg/kg of body weight.  The rats were then given a drug (narcan) to reverse the effects of morphine.  The rats that were given Ginger showed NO withdrawal signs or symptoms!  In addition, the rats that were given Ginger did not require escalating doses of morphine to achieve the same level of pain control.

This study has the potential to have a huge impact in addiction prevention and for those who require long term opiate use.  How many of us know someone who struggles with addiction to heroin or pain killers.  How great would it be for them to be able to kick the habit and get on with living?  In my career as an ER Nurse, I have seen first hand the countless lives destroyed by addiction.  This is one study I hope that finds it’s way into mainstream medicine.

Here is a link to the study

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