Can Ketones Help Fight Addiction?

Science by HLTH Code Team

Recent data suggests that some twenty million Americans have a substance use disorder [1]. Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex condition involving the compulsive use of harmful substances, and it can arise from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

One of the most important factors influencing addition relates to the brain. Changes in brain chemistry and function can occur with repeated substance use, particularly with drugs that affect neurotransmitters such as dopamine. These changes can contribute to the development and persistence of substance use disorders. 

The estimated annual cost for tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug addiction is a staggering $532 billion a year[2]. Treatments and their efficacy vary, but what if diet could play a role in improving substance use disorders?


Multiple studies over the last few years suggest that a ketogenic diet could have a significant impact on those suffering with addiction[3]. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that has been used for decades to treat various medical conditions, including certain neurological disorders. The diet induces a state of ketosis, where the body produces ketones from fat breakdown as an alternative fuel source to glucose. For decades, ketones were viewed as little more than metabolic garbage, but an explosion of research over the last several years has demonstrated that they have profound benefits to the body [4]


Of all of the tissues in the body, brain tissue appears to benefit from ketones more than any other. Multiple neurological and mental disorders are proving to respond well to ketogenic diets as a form of treatment. Ketones are shown to improve seizure control, neuroinflammation, mitochondrial function, modulation of neurotransmitters, in addition to other mental and neuroprotective benefits.

How do ketones help fight addiction?

Many of the mechanisms of a ketogenic diet that aid in managing neurological disorders are thought to also help in mitigating the effects of addiction. In a recent study, researchers measured alcoholics’ cravings when eating a control diet versus a ketogenic diet during their three weeks of inpatient detoxification treatment [5]. Across these three weeks, researchers took weekly brain scans to determine cravings. These weekly scans found that ketones actually reduced the cravings for alcohol among people who suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Other studies have shown that a ketogenic diet can noticeably lessen the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, and patients eating such a diet are able to take less medication for their AUD [6]. Additionally, patients eating a ketogenic diet have exhibited improved sensitivity in the region of their brain that manages emotion regulation, cognitive control, and pain processing.

In other words, a ketogenic diet appears to make a significant difference in helping those with AUD overcome their cravings and alcohol addiction. 


Further study and clinical trials will add more to this discussion, but evidence strongly suggests that a ketogenic diet is a powerful tool in fighting addiction. One more reason to cut carbs, prioritize protein, and eat healthy fat.



This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.