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March 22, 2009 10:24 PM   Subscribe

Niacin as an anxiety/depression treatment?

I've been having some mild-moderate anxiety issues lately and I think it's getting to the point where I am not quite as in control as I would like to be. However, I'm not interested in (and can't afford) taking prescription meds or going to a professional. I also don't really think it's necessary at this point. I'm a generally stable person--I've just fallen into a bit of a rut and need a little help getting out of it. I've heard Niacin can work wonders at helping to tame depression and anxiety and I was wondering if anyone knows any more about this, has tips and suggestions, or personal experience/anecdotes?
posted by faeuboulanger to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Didnt work for me. I feel like there's a laundry list of herbal items or vitamins out there that claim to help, but outside of Valerian root it all seems pretty hokey. The only thing that really helps is non-chemical self help, learning to live a calmer life, and controlling one's emotions through rational assesments of the situation.

If that fails then you should see a doctor. A prescription for a generic SSRI is pretty cheap if youre worried about money and if youre doctor decides you prescribe you one. He or she can also give you samples if youre uninsured.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:37 PM on March 22, 2009

Niacin? I thought that was to improve your circulation. When I was about 13, I accidentally took one. I thought I was taking my vitamin C tablet, but my dad's bottle of niacin was right next to it and I didn't look too closely. About five to ten minutes later, I was beet red and my whole body was stinging. I panicked, because I thought I was going to spontaneously combust (it seemed like a completely rational possibility at that point). When I say I panicked, that was a major understatement. I was hysterical--crying, vomiting, scaring the shit out of my parents. On the way to the hospital, my dad realized I'd taken the wrong tablet.

Moral of the story? i don't know about treating depression and anxiety, but it'll make you turn red like a tomato. It stings, too.

What about St. John's Wort? That's been known as an herbal remedy to depression and anxiety. A lot of the anti-depression meds are now available in generic, though, so they're worth considering. You'll still need to get a prescription from a professional for the generics, though.
posted by rybreadmed at 10:37 PM on March 22, 2009

Excellent comment here from Aquafortis.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:39 PM on March 22, 2009

You can buy non-flushing niacin. It just made me slightly warm.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:39 PM on March 22, 2009

I have seen a full-blown case of skin cancer turn on and run out on niacin dosages ... Other lesser manifestations that may turn on with niacin are hives, flu symptoms, gastroenteritis, aching bones, upset stomach or a fearful or terrified condition.

Oh, I'm sorry, that wasn't me. That was an L Ron Hubbard quote. Not that that discounts niacin as being useful, but it certainly makes me suspicious.

Might I suggest talking to someone? Therapists and counselors don't have to be expensive, and often you can find free or subsidized help in your area. Just think about it.
posted by incessant at 11:33 PM on March 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I took 500mg daily for a few months of the Slo-Niacin brand of non-flush niacin. I was taking it as part of a weight loss plan (supposedly it plays a role in regulating glucose metabolism) but had read about its anti-anxiety/tranquilizing effects as well. FWIW, I didn't notice a difference in my mood at all. There are a lot of articles on and offline about niacin's role as a "wonder vitamin" for all different types of ailments, but I don't remember seeing a lot of peer-reviewed research or human studies (maybe someone else has? this was over a year ago).

I have a friend who swears by SAM-E and claims it's the only thing that helped her escape depression. It's pretty pricey though.
posted by hamsterdam at 11:38 PM on March 22, 2009

I take a B-vitamin complex during the winter to help ward off seasonal depression. It's hard to say if it helps, since it's part of a whole battery of things I do in the winter to ward off seasonal depression. My doctor specifically recommended it though, and added that it specifically needs to have B-6 (pyridoxine) if you're on the pill, since hormonal birth control can deplete B-6 and cause mood problems as a result.
posted by adiabat at 12:14 AM on March 23, 2009

I did some follow up research (couldn't help myself). This case study (warning: PDF link) from 2005 seems to suggest that niacinamide was effective in treating three patients with anxiety, but take it with a grain of salt. The author's conclusion (pg. 10 if you want to skip the long article) confirms that there haven't really been any placebo-controlled studies.

I would say it can't hurt to try. The dosage these three patients were taking -- 2.5 grams daily -- was five times higher than the amount I took.
posted by hamsterdam at 12:15 AM on March 23, 2009

No interesting studies other than a three patient case study so it's a coinflip. A high quality b vitamin supplement almost never hurts anyone. Although niacin flush is a bit annoying, just taper your dose upwards over a few days. It's been used for over a decade in managing heart disease, seems to raise HDL 20-30% in most studies. Oh but the non flushing niacine (nicotinamide does not have the same HDL increasing effects.

Lots of other herbs have spotty research suggesting positive benefit to anxiety, ashwaganda, kava kava, lemon balm, st johns wart, valerian among others. I would carefully research the interactions and try one at a time.

Rhodiola Rosea and l-theanine have also gained popularity recently for their anti anxiety effects.
posted by zentrification at 2:23 AM on March 23, 2009

I tried everything for my anxiety. Niacin worked for me. I'm like a different person when I take it semi-regularly. When I started taking it, it felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Whenever, I start get all crazy, my wife now asks if I took it. Usually I haven't taken it for over a week. Talk to your doctor to see if you can try it. But really, I feel like a normal person after discovering it.
posted by milarepa at 4:16 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you want to go with one of the B vitamins, there's substantially better evidence that folic acid may help with depression. The evidence that's available isn't exactly good, but it's suggestive enough that there's at least one large study looking at whether it helps to augment antidepressants. The results for that study won't be in for another couple of years, though.

But for mild anxiety and depression, it's probably going to be much more effective to address the issues in your life that are causing these problems. Maybe spend some time thinking about why you've fallen into this rut, what thoughts or behaviours are keeping you there and what you can do to change this things. You can do this in addition to taking niacin or folic acid or whatever.
posted by xchmp at 4:24 AM on March 23, 2009

I've noticed that taking niacin (or really, any vitamin/supplement) with a meal works better. Or at least, doesn't flush so much. I'm also convinced it helps with allergies (the red flush has something to do with histamine). I can't say I noticed it any mood effects, but I wasn't looking for them. I say try it. Along with a nice B complex, D+calcium, and fish oil. When I remember to take that bucketload of pills every day, I DO notice that I feel better in general.
posted by gjc at 5:27 AM on March 23, 2009

Niacin, about 500-1000mg really calms me down too.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:26 PM on July 19, 2009

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