Say it Ain’t So: Supplement Companies Actually Claim Their Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs Can Help Reduce Opioid-withdrawal Symptoms
Savvy Supplement Shopper is a blog by CSPI senior staff scientist David Schardt. This blog aims to parse the good from the bad from the truly awful in the supplement aisle.
- “Helps those individuals who have decided to completely discontinue opioids.”
- “Made to help you Ease Withdrawal Symptoms, Shorten Detox Length.”
- “Our ingredients are the most effective on the market for treating withdrawal symptoms.”
- “Helps Eliminate Cravings, Symptoms & Helps You Quit.”
These are some of the baseless claims that seven dietary supplement companies are plying to people who are dependent on opioids and desperate to get off them.
The supplements, which consist mostly of vitamins, minerals, herbs like ginger and passionflower, and other substances like melatonin and the amino acid arginine, cost anywhere from $20 to $182 for the first month.
Experts say that the supplements make no difference in relieving opioid withdrawal. “There’s no credible evidence that dietary supplements can help with the prevention of opioid addiction, detoxification, or relapse prevention and recovery,” says Bachaar Arnaout, an addiction psychiatrist and assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine.
“The heartbreaking thing is that we do have FDA-approved medications that work for treating opioid addiction. But only a minority of people actually receive them.”
Experts say that the supplements make no difference in relieving opioid withdrawal.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) asked the seven companies for the evidence that supports their astonishing claims. (An eighth company withdrew its supplement from the market after we started asking questions. Maybe a coincidence.) Four of the companies responded, three did not. For example:
- Mitadone Anti Opiate Aid Plus ($40 a month). The product’s claims: “Helps ease withdrawal symptoms.” “Helps you quit.”
The company’s response: “We don’t really have any scientific studies as such currently, it takes years & millions of dollars to do that…All we can say is proof is in the pudding.”
- Opiate Freedom Center Ultimate Recovery System ($75 a month). The product’s claims: “Speed Your Detox.” “Make Withdrawal Easier.”
The company’s response: No response. It also ignored a challenge to its claims from the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Board, an industry self-regulatory body. The board has referred the case to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC, the agency that regulates dietary supplement advertising, has been mailing partial refund checks this fall to consumers who bought another supposed addiction supplement, a drink mix called Elimidrol, which consists of herbs and other compounds. Elimidrol’s manufacturer claimed that the mix could alleviate opioid-withdrawal symptoms and increase a user’s likelihood of overcoming opioid addiction. The FTC labeled that claim “false and misleading,” and the company agreed to refund customers $235,000.
Today, CSPI called on the Food and Drug Administration to ban the sale of these purported opioid-withdrawal supplements, and asked the FTC to prohibit their phony claims on websites and in ads.
“These supplement companies are giving false hope to people who are desperate to get better,” says Yale’s Bachaar Arnaout. “The danger people face by being misled is that they will be resorting to ineffective products, instead of evidence-based treatments, and that can cost them their health and lives.”