Orthomolecular Treatment for Alcoholism: Effectiveness

Orthomolecular treatment for alcoholism is widely used.


        1. What’s Orthomolecular Treatment?
        2. Is Orthomolecular Treatment for Alcoholism Effective?
        3. Resources

I. What’s Orthomolecular Treatment?

Orthomolecular treatment (OT) is often called megavitamin therapy. It’s based on the belief that insufficient vitamins, minerals and other substances cause diseases . “Ortho” is from the Greek word meaning “correct.” The practitioner tries to determine the exact deficiencies each client suffers. Hence, they try to give the patient the correct level of nutrients needed.

orthomolecular treatment for alcoholismIn orthomolecular treatment for alcoholism or other problems, the practitioner gives extremely high doses of the deficiencies diagnosed. This is done over a long time. Adherents believe is that if a little is good, then more is better. It’s the exact opposite of homeopathy.

Yet a basic principle of pharmacology is that “The dose makes the poison.” All substances, including water, oxygen, and vitamins, can be toxic at levels that are too high. If doses of any vitamin are too high, they become harmful poisons.

     Linus Pauling

OT became highly visible in 1970. That’s when Linus Pauling popularized idea that megadoses of vitamin C. He said it was good for treating the common cold. That’s still an unsupported.

Pauling also suggested that megadoses of specific vitamins and minerals might be effective in the treatment of certain mental illnesses. Over time, he expanded the list of diseases he thought could be treated. And he recommended massive doses of an expanding list of vitamins and minerals.

     Diseases and Conditions

Advocates promote OT for a number of diseases and conditions.

    • AIDS
    • Alcoholism
    • Allergies
    • Anxiety.
    • Arthritis
    • Autism
    • Behavioral disorders. (Including criminal behavior.)
    • Cancer
    • Cardiovascular disease.
    • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
    • Depression
    • Drug abuse.
    • Epilepsy
    • High blood pressure.
    • Hyperactivity.
    • Hypoglycemia.
    • Learning disabilities
    • Migraine headache
    • Mental retardation.
    • Metabolic disorders
    • Schizophrenia
    • Skin problems.

II. Is Orthomolecular Treatment for Alcoholism Effective?

Panels of leading scientists have examined the research findings. They have found the medical evidence fails to support the effectiveness of OT. The US National Library of Medicine does not index the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine on its MEDLINE. Quack-watch lists it as a not recommended journal.


Niacin is most commonly used in OT for alcoholism. It’s also called nicotinic acid, vitamin B3, and vitamin PP. Niacin megadosing can cause flushing, itching and liver damage.

So those who use this therapy should have their liver functioning monitored by a doctor. Damage to liver cells and jaundice can occur in less than three months. That’s with intakes as low as 750 mg per day.

Sometimes used is nicotinamide. That’s because clients tend to tolerate it better than niacin. But it can cause nausea, vomiting, and liver toxicity at doses as low as 3 grams per day.

AA co-founder Bill Wilson promoted niacin therapy as early as the 1930s. Yet many decades later there is still no evidence that OT works. That is, it’s not effective for treating any condition. But there is much proof that this expensive therapy can cause serious harm.

OT for alcoholism remains highly controversial.

III. Resources: Orthomolecular Treatment for Alcoholism

    • This site gives no advice. Please see your doctor for questions.