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5-Hydroxytryptophan & Alcohol

By Frankie Smith ; Updated August 14, 2017

The chemical 5-hydroxytryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, enters the body first from dietary sources as tryptophan. Both 5-HTP and alcohol interact with serotonin levels in your body. The "Neurotransmitter Review" notes that serotonin plays a role in alcohol's effects on your brain and might influence whether or not you abuse alcohol. Alcohol also impacts your levels of serotonin, temporarily raising serotonin levels in the brain. Still, 5-HTP might assist in mitigating symptoms of alcohol addiction and withdrawal. Consult your physician prior to using 5-HTP to treat an alcohol addiction or other conditions.


Your body makes 5-HTP through converting the amino acid tryptophan. The 5-HTP itself is not obtainable from foods, but tryptophan is. You consume tryptophan from numerous food sources, such as turkey, pumpkin seeds, milk, turnips, collard greens and sunflower seeds. Your body then converts tryptophan to the chemical 5-HTP, and then to the monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin. Available in supplement form, 5-HTP can be used for a number of ailments including improving mood and sleep, or decreasing symptoms of anxiety. An adult can safely take up to 50 milligrams of 5-HTP, three times daily. Children should not take this supplement.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is primarily located in your central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. This neurotransmitter communicates information among nerve cells, playing a lead role in regulating appetite, mood, sleep and muscle contractions. It is also responsible for some of your cognitive functioning, including memory and learning. Serotonin levels are affected by a number of factors, including diet, sunlight, genetics and alcohol or drug use.


The "Neurotransmitter Review" states that even one episode of consuming alcohol has an impact on serotonin, noting that alcohol prompts the release of serotonin into the brain, but might also interfere with serotonin receptors. As serotonin is a product of 5-HTP, there is interest in how 5-HTP might interact with alcohol use and serotonin. An animal study published in the 2006 edition of “Synapse” reported a decrease in the signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in rats who received the supplement 5-HTP prior to discontinuation of alcohol in their diets. This research suggests 5-HTP, when taken with a drug called phentermine, might provide an effective treatment for reducing alcohol intake and minimizing the adverse affects of withdrawal from alcohol use.


The minimal side effects of 5-HTP, when taken as prescribed, include nausea, flatulence and heartburn. High doses of 5-HTP, or combining the chemical with other drugs that increase serotonin such as antidepressants, might prompt a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. Limit your alcohol use when taking the supplemental form of 5-HTP, as alcohol has been shown to increase serotonin in the brain. According to, symptoms of serotonin syndrome include diarrhea, shivering, tightening of muscles, seizures and fever.

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