DCA safety and side effects

Sodium dichloroacetate is considered to be a fairly safe alternative cancer treatment. There have been no cases recorded for DCA to be a cause of death.

Before we begin, we should bear in mind that Sodium dicholoroacetate has already demonstrated  success in dealing with ‘‘Lactic acidosis in children with congenital mitochondrial defects“  for some time. The first scientific studies and the usage of the drug began over 40 years ago. (Ref.)

In this time period, DCA has been constantly used as a medication for congenital mitochondrial diseases. The research done by Peter Stacpoole and his colleagues proved that when used for therapy, Sodium dichloroacetate can cause none, mild or moderate side effects. (Ref.)

The probability of adverse reactions is dependent on the dosing and the age of the patient. Larger DCA doses and  older patient age (above 40 years) are related to a higher side effect occurrence. (Ref.)

On exceptionally rare occasions, a small portion of the population can metabolize DCA more slowly than the average. For this reason, even the standard DCA doses can cause adverse reactions to appear faster and more prominent in this group of people. In this case, lowering the DCA dose should fix the issues.

If you stop taking DCA, almost all of the side effects disappear in less than a week. The reversible peripheral neuropathy can sometimes take up to 7 or 14 days (rarely) to resolve completely. (Ref.)

According to one of the most famous DCA clinics and their observational data, 44 % of the patients who have taken DCA did not experience side effects.

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The most common side effects caused by Dichloroacetate:

▪ Peripheral neuropathy.
  (experienced by up to 20% of people who use DCA).


This group of symptoms begins in the fingers, hands and feet. Depending on the intensity of the neuropathy, it can manifest as tingling, numbness, tremor, painful sensations and slightly increased difficulty of coordinated movement.
On less common occasions, neuropathy can emerge in other places and appear as the tingling of eyes, lips and tongue.

Typically, at least a couple of weeks or months are needed for peripheral neuropathy to develop.
This side effect is reversible – its intensity can decrease or it can disappear completely upon lowering the DCA dose or stopping DCA usage. (Ref.)

At the bottom of the article you will find information about the supplements and the methods you can apply to avoid this adverse reaction.

▪ Sleepiness, mental fogginess, confusion
  (experienced by up to 20% of people who use DCA).


This group of symptoms is reversible – you can decrease their intensity or completely make them disappear by lowering the DCA dose or stopping DCA usage.


The rare side effects caused by Dichloroacetate:

▪ Heartburn, nausea, digestive disorders.

Administering Dichloroacetate through the mouth can sometimes cause GI irritability.

At the bottom of the article you will find information about the supplements and the methods you can apply to avoid this adverse reaction.

▪ Pain at the tumor site (temporary and then resolves).

A very rare adverse reaction. It indicates that due increased apoptosis a lot of cancer cells are dying and indicates that DCA therapy is effective. However, in the DCA administering clinics only a couple of Tumor lysis syndrome cases were documented. This situation can most likely in people who have leukemia, lymphoma or big volume tumors. (Ref.1, Ref.2)

▪ Mild liver enzyme (AST, ALT, GGT) elevation, without symptoms.

A majority of medications can cause mild liver enzyme changes in the blood. DCA can cause minimal liver transaminase and transpeptidase elevations (about 50 – 60 U/l) for 1 % of the patients. These little alterations should not cause any worries.
A similar or bigger liver enzyme increase can be influenced by antibiotic, paracetamol (acetaminophen), some types of medicinal herbs and birth control pills. (Ref.)

▪ Increased anxiety, mood changes, hallucinations.

These effects are temporary and should disappear with the discontinued use of DCA. They are more likely to appear in patients that are using drugs which strongly influence the Central nervous system.

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Dichloroacetates influence on different organ systems:

▪ DCA and the brain.
If you are currently using cannabinoids, benzodiazepines, opioids or other drugs which affect the Central nervous system, keep in mind that DCA can amplify the adverse reactions caused by these medications (eg. Delirium, memory problems).
This scenario is more likely to happen if the prescriptions have already caused side effects. If the patient is not experiencing any issues with the CNS affecting drugs – the risk for such interactions with DCA is low.

To minimize the probability of these drugs interacting, we recommend starting with low Sodium dichloroacetate doses and to gradually increase them. (Ref.)

▪ DCA and the heart.
Dichloroacetate seems to have a positive effect for the heart function without increasing the additional demand for oxygen. It also improves the efficiency of energy generation in the heart muscle. The drug is safe to use for people with heart failure and increased risk of cardiac ischemia. (Ref.)

▪ DCA and the liver.
In case of liver failure and severe jaundice don’t use high doses of DCA because Dichloroacetate is metabolised in the liver. In situations like these, DCA should be administered intravenously and not through the mouth. (Ref.)

▪ DCA and the kidneys.
Dichloroacetate is safe for patients who have kidney failure. The drug has no toxicity for the kidneys.

▪ DCA and diabetes.
Patients who have diabetes can achieve better blood glycemic control with the help of Dichloroacetate. DCA seems to lower the blood sugar in between meals. (Ref.)

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This is the current accurate information on how DCA affects the major organs in the body. We can come to a conclusion that if Dichloroacetate is administered with care and adequate basic knowledge, its health risks are low and can be almost entirely prevented.

We hope this article answers the most important questions.

For more information on how to control and prevent adverse reactions caused by the Sodium dichloroacetate administration, please read the article “Methods and supplements for preventing DCA side effects”.