Natural Supplements, Kava Kava, and the Recovering Addict

Contributor: Hugh C. McBride, BA, for Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center

surf-490090_640Because addiction impacts a person’s body as well as his or her mind, maintaining physical health can play a key role in the effort to achieve and sustain long-term recovery. Adhering to a proper diet and getting regular amounts of appropriate exercise are important ways for recovering individuals to maintain their physical and emotional health.

In recent years, many people have turned to natural supplements (also referred to as herbal supplements, dietary supplements, or botanicals) to enhance their wellness efforts. Popular natural supplements include:

  • Acai
  • Beta-carotene
  • Echinacea
  • Feverfew
  • Ginseng
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Tea tree oil

Natural Supplements in the US

Supplements are marketed for their ability to promote weight loss, increase strength, improve mental clarity, and otherwise contribute to overall health.

In the United States, natural supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – but, unlike with prescription and over-the-counter medications, manufacturers can sell supplements without receiving FDA approval.

Once a supplement is on the market, the FDA’s involvement is limited to monitoring its safety.

Consulting with a Medical Professional

Anyone who decides to add natural supplements to his or her diet should consult with a qualified medical professional, and in the case of recovering addicts, this decision must also involve careful consideration of how supplements will impact their recovery.

This is especially true for natural supplements that influence mood and/or cognitive abilities.

Kava Kava

windsurfing-84615_640One such natural supplement is kava kava, which is often referred to as simply “kava.” Kava kava is derived from the roots of the Piper methysticum plant, which is indigenous to the South Pacific Islands including Hawai’i, Vanautu, Malanesia, and Micronesia.

Kava kava has been used for ceremonial, religious, and medicinal purposes in that region for centuries. Traditionally, the root is ground into a pulp, added to water, and consumed as a tea. When sold as a supplement, kava kava usually appears in pill form. Kava kava is known for its sedative properties.

Its effects have been compared to those of Valium and alcohol, as it often enhances relaxation, talkativeness, and a sense of euphoria. The supplement has also been used to relieve symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, and some forms of pain.

The Risk to Recovery

Clearly, taking kava kava could put one’s recovery at risk. In fact, several individuals and organizations consider kava kava use to be a relapse into substance abuse. Thus, it is essential that anyone who is in recovery for substance abuse or addiction should consult with their therapist/counselor, treatment provider, addiction expert, or other trusted and knowledgeable source before using kava kava or any other natural supplements.

Regardless how long a person has been in recovery, the danger of relapse remains a real and present threat. Pursuing improved physical, mental, and emotional health is a valuable practice, but it’s essential to ensure that the pursuit of these worthy goals doesn’t have the unintentionally counterproductive result of putting one’s continued sobriety at risk.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with using nutritional supplements in addiction recovery?


About the Author:

“Natural Supplements, Kava Kava, and the Recovering Addict” was written by Blue Ridge Mountain clinical content team member Hugh C. McBride. Hugh has several years of experience researching and writing on a wide range of topics related to behavioral healthcare. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grove City College.


About Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center:

Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center is a private residential recovery center located in a serene and tranquil setting in Ball Ground, Georgia. This center provides life-changing services to adults who are struggling with substance abuse, addiction, and related conditions.

Blue Ridge Mountain’s programs include medically supervised detox, 35-45 day residential treatment, a vibrant family program, and comprehensive aftercare planning. Treatment at Blue Ridge Mountain is a holistic experience that is based on the principles of the 12-step recovery model.

With a focus on treating the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – our goal is not merely to ease symptoms, but to identify, address, and develop strategies to overcome the fundamental issues that have either led to or been exacerbated by the patient’s substance abuse and addiction. Features of residential care at Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center include individual, group, and family therapy, on- and off-site 12-step meetings, gender-specific men’s and women’s groups, educational lectures, and relapse-prevention instruction.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 27th, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.