AKA: Larodopa, levodopa, Lopar, L-3,4 dihydroxyphenylalanine.

A precursor of the neurotransmit-ter dopamine, L-dopa is an amino acid found naturally in the body, even though it is classified as a prescription drug. It is metabolized from tyrosine, which in turn is converted from phenylalanine. It is used to treat Parkinson's disease, restless leg syndrome, and the pain resulting from herpes zoster (shingles).

Food Sources: Velvet beans.

Effects: It may reverse or even prevent the deterioration of the body generally associated with aging by fully restoring the hypothalamus' ability to maintain the body's biochemical home-ostasis; it may increase energy without the addiction and depressive aftermath associated with amphetamines; it can aid in weight loss by suppressing the appetite and stimulating the release of growth hormone; it is a powerful anti-oxidant; and it may act as a sexual aid by increasing the levels of the neurotrans-mitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, stimulating the release of growth hormone, decreasing the levels of prolactin, and reducing the levels of serotonin.

Taking vitamin C may maintain the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the body, while taking one or more of such anti-oxidants as vitamins B-l, B-5, B-6, and E, the minerals selenium and zinc, and the drug Hydergine may prevent free-radical damage caused by dopamine byproducts. It is sometimes administered with Carbidopa, which allows it to cross the blood/brain barrier much more easily and allows the dosage to be reduced by as much as 75 percent, reducing side effects considerably.

Precautions: It should not be taken by those who are allergic to L-dopa or Carbidopa, have taken an MAO inhibitor in the previous two weeks, have narrow-angle type glaucoma, have a history of stomach ulcers, or who have malignant melanoma or suspicious skin lesions. The hazards of L-dopa may be increased for those with diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart or lung disease, a history of heart attacks, glaucoma, asthma, kidney disease, liver disease, hormone disease, peptic ulcer, or who have had surgery within the last two months (including dental surgery) that required general or spinal anesthesia. It should be used with extreme caution by those with a history of psychosis, and adverse reactions may be more frequent and severe in those over age 60.

Common side effects include muscle spasms, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, dry mouth, drooling, eating problems arising from a loss of muscle control, tiredness, hand tremors, headache, dizziness, numbness, weakness or feelings of faintness, confusion, insomnia, teeth grinding, nightmares, euphoria, hallucinations, delusions, agitation, anxiety, an overall feeling of illness, mood changes, diarrhea, depression and suicidal feelings, and body odor. Less common side effects include heart palpitations or irregularities, dizziness when standing up, paranoia, some loss of mental abilities, difficulty in urinating, muscle twitches, a burning feeling on the tongue, bitter taste, constipation, unusual breathing patterns, blurred or double vision, hot flashes, changes in weight, dark urine, heavy perspiration, itchy skin, eyelid spasms, a flushing in the face, and tiredness. Rare side effects include stomach bleeding, ulcer, high blood pressure, convulsions, blood changes (including anemia), feelings of stimulation, hiccups, hair loss, hoarseness, the shrinking of male genitals, fluid retention, increased libido, and pain in the upper abdomen. Overdose symptoms include muscle twitches, eyelid spasms, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid or irregular pulse, weakness, fainting, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, and coma.

It could cause a condition called the serotonin syndrome, in which serotonin levels in the body are too high, and which is characterized by restlessness, confusion, sweating, diarrhea, excessive salivation, high blood pressure, increased body temperature, rapid heart rate, tremors, and seizures.

The effects of L-dopa can be increased by antacids, Selegiline, or other anti-Parkinsonian drugs, and decreased by anticholinergic drugs, tricyclic anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, anti-hypertensives, benzodiazepine-type tranquilizers and sedatives, Haloperidol, Methionine, Methyldopa, Molindone, Papaverine, phenothiazine antipsychotic medications, Phenytoin, Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), or Rauwolfia alkaloids. When combined with Albuterol, it can increase the risk of heartbeat irregularities; with tricyclic antidepressants or anti-hypertensives, it can lead to lowered blood pressure and weakness or faintness when standing up; with Guan-facine, it can lead to increased effects of both drugs; with MAO inhibitors, it can lead to dangerously high blood pressure (individuals should cease taking MAO inhibitors two weeks before starting L-Dopa); with Metoclopramide, it can lead to a higher absorption of L-dopa in the blood and a diminishing in the latter drug's effects on the stomach.

Pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) or a high protein diet can decrease the effects of L-dopa; B-6 and L-dopa may have to be taken one-half to four hours apart to prevent this. While B-6 can increase dopamine levels in the blood, it can decrease dopamine levels in the brain, and some take Sinemet (a combination of L-dopa and Carbidopa) to keep brain dopamine levels high. When combined with cocaine, it can lead to a greater risk of heartbeat irregularity, and when combined with marijuana, it can lead to fatigue, lethargy, and fainting. It should be taken with food to avoid upset stomach.

Dosage: For Parkinson's patients, 0.5 to 8 grams/day according to a person's individual needs. For life-extension and cognitive enhancement purposes, it is generally suggested that 125 to 500 mg/day be taken, or 35 to 125 mg/day in combination with Carbidopa. Taking it just before sleep is probably the best strategy for stimulating the release of growth hormone.

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