Attempts to hide illicit drug use by taking niacin have landed four people in Philadelphia hospitals over the past 2 years, two with life-threatening reactions to high doses of the nutrient, doctors report.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, plays roles in digestion, hormone production, skin upkeep, and nervous system maintenance. Because the vitamin promotes fat metabolism, doctors sometimes give niacin in large doses to people with high concentrations of cholesterol and triglycerides. That property has led some people to believe that niacin can also cleanse the body of illicit drugs, particularly marijuana.
Two of the four Philadelphia patients experienced nausea, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, dehydration, low blood sugar, blood-clotting abnormalities, liver toxicity, and a dangerous drop in blood pH.
One patient, a 14-year-old boy, also experienced abdominal pain, a run-up in his white blood cell count, and an irregular heartbeat. The other severely affected patie