NAD Therapy for Addiction: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on June 02, 2024
4 min read

If you’re looking for help with an addiction for yourself or a loved one, you might run across centers offering NAD therapy. It’s said to help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. They might cite numbers (usually without all the data or any proof) to show how well it works. They may suggest it could help with substance use disorders in place of, or along with, other approved medicines.

It’s tempting to think there’s a treatment that can help you or your loved one recover from a substance use disorder more easily. But any time you see claims about how well a treatment works without evidence and from sources that are trying to sell you something, it’s a good idea to find out more about what it is exactly and whether it’s both safe and proven to work.

NAD stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. It’s sometimes called NAD+. It’s an active form of vitamin B3. You can find NAD in every one of your cells.

NAD has lots of important and complex roles throughout your body. It’s involved in many of the chemical reactions that happen inside your cells. It’s important for the way your cells make energy from nutrients. This is sometimes called energy metabolism. It also affects how your cells respond to stress.

There’s evidence showing that NAD levels drop as you get older. This happens also in people with health conditions that happen more often as you age. Low NAD may have some role in diseases of your heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and skin.

Given all of this, there’s an idea that NAD is generally good for you and that less of it is not. Healthy younger people have more of it. Lots of things can make NAD levels get lower. These include problems in the way your body makes NAD, damage to your body from the sun, an overactive immune system, and other assaults on your body.

NAD therapy is just what it sounds like. You’ll receive NAD. Usually you’ll get it in an intravenous (IV) infusion. You may get multiple infusions over several days for several hours at a time. You might also take a pill containing NAD or one of its precursors.

NAD therapy might include other vitamins or amino acids. The idea is that this will boost your levels of NAD and perhaps other nutrients as well. It’s possible that NAD therapy could help with many conditions.

Studies that are completed or underway are testing its use for many conditions including:

  • Aging
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • Alzheimer’s
  • COVID-19 and post-COVID syndrome
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Substance use disorders

But there aren’t many published studies showing whether or how well it works. NAD therapy isn’t proven or approved for any use. It’s considered a dietary supplement, not a medicine. Because of this, you can buy it like any other supplement without a doctor’s prescription. You might get NAD in a solution from a compounding pharmacy. You can also buy NAD-boosting pills online.

NAD therapy isn’t approved to treat addiction or withdrawal in people with a substance use disorder. But there is some evidence it could help.

The first study testing NAD for substance use disorders came out many decades ago. The doctor who did the study gave NAD in an IV to more than 100 people with alcohol use disorder, opioid use disorder, or other substance use disorders. They got 500 to 1,000 milligrams in a saline solution for 4 days, then twice a week for a month. Then they got a dose twice a month until they recovered.

More recent data also suggested that NAD therapy is safe and might help. People got 800 to 1,800 milligrams a day over 3 to 8 hours every day for at least a week. But NAD therapy still hasn’t been tested or proven in enough people to say that it works or how well. Some experts still think that raising NAD levels might have promise for treating any kind of addiction.

Another study showed that IV infusion of NAD does increase levels when given at 750 milligrams for 6 hours. The researchers didn’t see any adverse effects of the treatment. But they said there’s still more to learn about what happens to NAD in the body.

It remains uncertain whether and how much NAD therapy might help for treating substance use disorders, withdrawal symptoms, or any other condition. Clinics and addiction centers still can offer it if they choose to because it’s considered a dietary supplement. The FDA doesn’t review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness in the way that they do for medicines. But because it’s unproven, companies and clinics shouldn’t market NAD therapy as treatment for substance use disorder or withdrawal symptoms or make claims about how well it works.

NAD therapy takes time and can be costly. Reports suggest that you can expect to pay several thousand dollars. Since NAD therapy isn’t an approved treatment for substance use disorder, insurance generally won’t cover it. If you were getting NAD therapy along with other types of approved therapy, some of your treatment might be covered.

If you’re interested in trying NAD therapy for an addiction or substance use disorder, be sure to ask your doctor questions up front such as:

  • Does NAD therapy help with substance use disorder or withdrawal?
  • How well does it work?
  • What’s the evidence that it works?
  • What does it do exactly?
  • How many times will I need to get it?
  • How long will it take?
  • What’s it like to get NAD therapy?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Is it covered by insurance?
  • What are the risks?
  • How does it compare to medicines that are approved for substance use disorders?