I take niacin to treat my high cholesterol. Should I be concerned about a potential niacin overdose?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Niacin overdose is unlikely if you take niacin only in the amount prescribed by your doctor. While it's not possible to overdose on niacin simply by eating too many niacin-rich foods, taking too much over-the-counter or prescription niacin can be dangerous.

You may have seen rumors about niacin on the Internet. The rumors falsely state that taking a large amount of niacin can flush the chemicals that show you've used marijuana out of your body before a drug test. No studies have shown that niacin can do this, and it can be very dangerous because a niacin overdose can cause severe liver damage.

Niacin overdose signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe skin flushing combined with dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Itching
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Gout

If you're concerned about a potential niacin overdose, talk to your doctor to make sure you're taking the correct amount. If you think you may have overdosed, seek medical attention immediately.

May 15, 2014