New NAC Supplement for OCD

Scrupulosity Video Post

Jaimie Eckert

Published on Jun 25, 2020; Updated on May 9, 2023

Is there any kind of natural supplement for OCD? You would hope so. Here’s an OCD fact that will shock your socks off: up to 40% of patients who take SSRI’s for obsessive compulsive disorder are not helped. That is, taking antidepressants does not cause a clinically significant change in their symptoms.

That’s pretty unfortunate, considering that antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed medication for OCD.

I’m not a pharmaceutical scientist or a biochemical engineer — but it doesn’t take much research to discover an odd history between OCD and antidepressants.

Is there a supplement for OCD? Up to 40% of people who take SSRI medications for OCD are not helped

The Relationship between OCD and Antidepressants

According to a 2015 study, when psychiatrists prescribe SSRI’s to patients with OCD, they usually have to give a much higher dose than they would give to a patient with depression in order to see any clinical results. But even at these high levels, 40% of OCD cases do not even budge.

40 percent? That’s a lot, folks! Considering the awful side effects that come along with these pills, is a 60% chance of improvement the best we can do?

Some people do find relief from antidepressants (possibly from the SSRI placebo effect). But for those who don’t, the relationship between OCD and antidepressants is an important discussion.

Can it be that SSRI’s – which regulate levels of serotonin – are aiming at the wrong target for people with OCD? New research is suggesting that OCD is related – not primarily to serotonin – but to glutamate.

new research suggests that OCD is related to imbalances in glutamate

Glutamate? What are you talking about?

Is this like, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) that you find in cheap Chinese food? ??

Well, not exactly.

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter in the brain that affects the way neurons fire — and research is suggesting that THIS is the important neurotransmitter in the OCD discussion, NOT serotonin.

You see, the brain is made up of billions of neurons, which may be either excitatory or inhibitory. 

When a neuron is excitatory, it means that electrical impulses get the “go-ahead signal.”

When a neuron is inhibitory, it puts a brake on the electrical impulse. 

For example, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter – when it binds to a neuron, it allows negative ions inside the neuron, making it more negative and less likely to respond to new stimuli. 

Glutamate, on the other hand, is an excitatory neurotransmitter, and does the opposite.  When it binds to a neuron, it allows positive ions to flow inside, making it more positive and more likely to fire.

glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter

As someone with OCD, have you ever felt like you simply couldn’t turn your thoughts off? 

It might be related to the excitatory, “let’s-keep-firing” effects of glutamate.  Researchers are now suggesting that a glutamate imbalance may be related to OCD symptoms.

Well, this would explain why antidepressants — which target a completely different neurotransmitter, serotonin, have a high failure rate for helping OCD.

Is There a Natural Supplement for OCD?

With the risks and side effects associated with antidepressants, as well as the unclear benefits, the question arises: isn’t there a natural supplement for OCD?

It turns out there may be. (Spoiler alert: I’ve been taking it for the last 3 years and won’t go back!)

In clinical trials aimed at balancing glutamate, researchers tested the effects of NAC, an over-the-counter medication most famous for ER treatment of acetaminophen overdose.

What they discovered is that it does have an effect on OCD symptoms.

NAC - supplement for OCD

NAC stands for N-acetylcysteine, and is a derivative of the amino acid L-cysteine.  It has been used to treat a wide variety of disorders – outside of the emergency room, it is also used for liver support, treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, prevention of COPD, antioxidant support, and increasingly, against mental disorders.  

One study found that NAC statistically decreased trichotillomania. You know, compulsive hair-pulling, a close cousin of OCD.

Another study supported the hypothesis that NAC can help treat substance abuse disorders and addictive behavior.  

NAC was even shown to decrease binge eating in rats.

The best part? NAC doesn’t have any known side effects.

NAC does not have any known side effects

NAC: A New Natural Supplement for OCD?

Suggesting that OCD is related to brain neurons firing too much is a sensible hypothesis. We all feel it. Our brains just won’t shut off.

Who came up with the idea that more serotonin would fix the problem?

No clue.

But it’s definitely worth investigating the possibility that glutamate may be responsible for making our neurons stand on their heads and dance the hokey pokey all day.

NAC is a modified amino acid that works to balance glutamate levels — meaning, theoretically, that there’s less excitatory glutamate available and thus, less hokey pokey.

NAC is still being tested to understand its efficacy as a supplement for OCD, so you should talk to your doctor before trying it.

My Experience with NAC as a Supplement for OCD

Some years ago, I reached a dramatic low point with my OCD and ended up with major depression. I checked into a treatment center that specializes in depression and anxiety recovery. This center is incredibly successful, with more than 90% of depressed patients leaving after 10 days with sub-clinical symptoms.

Interestingly, the lead doctor tries to wean all but the most severe patients off their antidepressant medicines, using lifestyle medicine and therapy to rebuild their mental health.

When he saw me and analyzed my blood labs, he quickly discovered that I had hypercupremia, meaning high levels of copper in my bloodstream. This can cause anxiety, so he first worked on balancing my copper levels. As a side note, he asked me to take NAC for its powerful antioxidant effects, since high copper can cause oxidative stress in the body.

NAC has powerful antioxidant effects.

Knowing that I had OCD, he mentioned that NAC “may” help with my symptoms, but that the research is still in process to understand its exact effects on OCD.

Don’t you just love those doctors who underpromise and overdeliver? ?

Boy, did the NAC help my OCD!

I used to have a constant mental buzz. Although I don’t drink caffeine, it was like being on a constant caffeine high. My obsessive cycles were charged, anxiety-driven, and unstoppable.

Once I started taking NAC, I found that the sharp edges were shaved off this anxious buzz. The anxiety was still there, but had lost its overwhelming quality. It became manageable.

Because I am a highly skeptical person, I began to deride myself that I had fallen for the placebo effect myself. How could a little over-the-counter supplement be so powerful? Surely I had fooled myself.

But occasionally, during times of travel or changed schedules, I would suddenly get a strong, overpowering wave of anxiety. I would get heart palpitations and feelings of impending doom.

What’s going on with me? I would panic.

Then I would realize: I’m traveling and I forgot to take my NAC.

So, is it just the placebo effect? I doubt it. I think my body has adjusted to a “new normal” with NAC supplementation over the last three years, and if I miss a dose, my body protests.

Up to 40% of people who take SSRI medications for OCD are not helped

But I don’t mind. NAC is cheap, easy to get, and doesn’t cause a single side effect (unless I stop taking it — then I feel the old levels of anxiety). And, as an added bonus, NAC’s antioxidant effects can help you prevent cancer.

It’s a win-win!

Here’s a link to the specific NAC that I buy, although there are other brands that would probably do just as well as a supplement for OCD.


Current research is tending away from SSRI’s for OCD. New theories are suggesting that an imbalance of glutamate may be responsible for our constantly-triggering thought life.

NAC helps to balance glutamate levels. And it’s a cheap supplement that anyone can try.

So why not? Why not ask your doctor if he or she sees any problem with you testing it out? Why not give it a go?

OCD has a long history of being misunderstood. In the olden days, it was treated with electroconvulsive shock therapy (didn’t work). Then it was treated with a thought-stopping rubber band (didn’t work). Then it was treated with antidepressants (didn’t work almost half the time).

Poor us. ?

OCD might be at the bottom of the research priority list, but at least it’s there! I’m so thankful for researchers who choose to study OCD and help us find better answers. NAC and the glutamate-OCD connection may be one of those “better answers.”

What do you think? Does the theory make sense? If you’ve tried NAC, what did you think of the experience?

Drop me a line below and share your thoughts!

Best wishes on the journey,

jaimie eckert signature
  • Jaime, I found your article on NAC very interesting. I am someone who has spent years trying every type of antidepressant for my religious OCD. None have worked. You possibly will not approve, but I am currently trying ketamine under the care of a clinic run by a ChristIan psychiatrist and a Christian therapist who suffered terribly from scrupulosity himself. The use of Ketamine for OCD is relatively new. Articles I have read speculate that Ketamine helps anxiety disorders, OCD, and depression because it has a beneficial effect on the glutamatergic system in the brain ( it affects glutamate neurotransmission in the brain. I am just at the beginning of the treatment but my Mom says I seem noticeably better already and when I allow myself to cautiously hope, I see some improvement too. I was really excited when I read about NAC and found out it too works by modulating glutamate neurotransmission.
    Unfortunately, it may not be available as a supplement much longer. The FDA wants to designate it as a drug available only by prescription. Do you know if this is likely to happen ? I suppose it’s not that big a deal if it is recognized as a medication that helps anxiety and depression – a psychiatrist can write a prescription for it, just as he would for Prozac, but still…

    Patti Holub

    • Hi Patti, thank you for sharing your experience with ketamine! I have spoken to several others who have tried it for their OCD and have likewise heard positive results. I have not done a lot of research into it myself, but I should. 🙂

      I am not sure how probable NAC is to be more carefully regulated, but I do know that there is a new OCD medication (I believe still in the trial stages) that targets glutamate as an important contributor to OCD. So this does seem to be having more clinical attention.

      I’ll be watching to see how this area of research unfolds…and will try to find time to research more about ketamine as well! Thanks for mentioning it!


      • Hi Jaime, I don’t think there is going to be any difficulty obtaining NAC. The articles that mentioned this possibility were all rather dated. I didn’t realize this until after I had sent you the email. Judging by the availability of it in stores like vitamin shoppe and gnc, as well as on internet websites, the FDA will not be allowed to classify it as a drug and it will continue to be considered a dietary supplement. One article I read on it said the “decision” would be made sometime in 2022. We are well into 2022 now and NAC is easily available. It’s actually encouraging that the FDA wanted to classify it as a drug – it is an indication of how very effect it is. The FDA has tried this before with other dietary supplements that have proved to be as helpful or more helpful at treating certain conditions and failed. I am pretty sure it will be the same with NAC.

  • Jamie, that Neurolink is from a website
    I did take there Serotonin Mood Support for a while the other one was cheaper and had another ingredient in it. But you cannot mix these supplements with anti-depressants. I think when I try the NAC I will just stop my supplement to see if there is a difference. The supplement I did take I did a study so to speak on the ingredients of 5-HTP people should study before they take these supplements.

    • Good point, Frank! Some supplements interfere with prescription medications, so we need to be aware of that and always check before trying new supplements. Thanks for mentioning!

  • Hi Jamie, I do take a supplement I stopped taking it for a while but my wife she thinks it’s better if I take it.
    I think the supplement I take you are supposed to give it a break every once in a while anyway. I take a supplement called Neurolink it has in it Vitamin B6, L-Tyrosine, GABA, L-Glutamine, L-Taurine, 5-HTP.
    I purchased some of this NAC I will try it out.

    Grace and peace in Him
    Brother Frank

    • Great! Yes, try it out. I’m not familiar with Neurolink, but the individual ingredients sound pretty good. 🙂 If you feel an improvement (or no improvement) with the NAC, let us know for the benefit of others who may read this later!

      • Hey coach Jamie I’ve been taking the nac plus my other herbal supplement for about three weeks now first few days I felt decent still struggling though need to give it more time, I think it helps!
        Maybe not as anxious as I was sometime need to give it more time.
        your devotional really is beautiful the second day is me I can get something in my head from scripture and it can really mess me up for days a week throw me into anxiety consume my time and over pray till I feel better, my wife always snapping me out of it in public wow sometimes I can’t believe this is really happening to me it was not like this before these thoughts I try to suppress them sometimes it just doesn’t work for sure here Jesus you have this I give it to you. I feel better at evening time the morning is difficult right when I get up it starts well God bless you Sister for your ministry here.

    • Hi, Bev,
      I’ve used Solaray 600mg NAC for some years. I’m living abroad now and because of the current travel issues in 2020 I was not able to go home to the US to buy more, so I started using an effervescent tablet which also contained 600mg of NAC (probably a brand not available in the US, but effervescent tablets are available there from different brands). What I discovered is that the veggie capsule from Solaray gives a nasty smell when you take it out of the bottle and drink it down (like sulphur) but there is usually no aftertaste. The effervescent tablet, on the other hand, has a very pleasant lemony taste when you drink it (and no smell) but later you’ll end up burping sulphur a bit. So, take your pick when you’d like to have the yucky smell/taste. 🙂

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