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BRIEF: Could Niacin be used in some drug-related way?


QUESTION:
I recently found a bottle of 100mg Niacin tablets in my teenage daughter's backpack. Is there a possibility this vitamin is being used in some drug-related way?

ANSWER:

You caught me at home, without my library, but niacin is a pretty well- characterized nutrient/drug. The primary legitimate drug use for niacin is to lower blood cholesterol. Massive doses are used and it works. Unfortunately, there are unpleasant side effects at the higher doses - rashes, flushing, etc., but nothing that would be of any recreational value. Otherwise, people use niacin pills just as a vitamin supplement. And I suppose kids might decide the side effects represent some kind of desirable rush, but I can't see how it would be fun. That is the good news. The bad news is that there are a lot of quacks out there suggesting niacin and hosts of other less innocuous things for "natural" cures for all sorts of maladies, real or imagined. Niacin has been pushed in life-extending mixtures, as an anti-adiction agent and prescribed for a whole bunch of other crackpot reasons. Also, do you remember when we were kids LSD was distributed on sugar cubes or (assuming you are younger than I) on postage stamps? Well, if one wanted to fret about a long shot, then one could speculate the same could be done with a drop on a vitamin pill. Ask your daughter if she thinks that YOU should start taking a lot of niacin. Then ask her why. Then ask her if she is taking some. Since you have been inspecting her backpack, I guess you are worried about what she is up to lately. When I get back to my office, I will check and see if there is anything else we should worry about. Taking the niacin may not be a conern, but the reason she is taking it is. Find out. Ask.