nutrition in drug treatment

The Role of Nutrition in Drug Treatment

Nutrition is probably one of the most important yet most underrated aspects of drug and alcohol addiction recovery that there is.  This is the key factor that so many recovering addicts and that so many rehab centers are missing out on.  When someone abuses drugs and alcohol for a long enough of a period of time, he or she will end up having a severely malnourished body as a result of it.  In fact, addiction and substance abuse in a lot of ways ends up causing major damage that is often impossible to get back to normal.  Witness brain damage from meth abuse, liver damage from alcohol abuse, and vein collapse from heroin abuse.  Because of all of this, nutrition is needed because proper nutrition can begin to repair the damage done by drug and alcohol abuse.

“Eat your veggies,” has probably been said to everybody at some point in their youth. As a child, you may roll your eyes and shovel enough green stuff in to be excused from the dinner table. As an adult, you probably just choose to buy the foods you like from the store and may or may not avoid the produce section all together because nobody is telling you what to do anymore. However, it is just as important to maintain a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables in you youth as in your adulthood.  Without the proper nutrition your body is more susceptible to sickness and has to work much harder to recover from stress.

Having a Balanced Diet is Key 

Having a balanced diet includes making sure you are eating enough good food, avoiding processed foods, ensuring you are getting enough vitamins and not overdoing it. What is good food? Unfortunately “good food” is not a category organized by flavors. Good food includes, but is not limited to, green leafy vegetables (the darker green the better.) For example, spinach has more enzymes and minerals than lettuce. It also has more complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and fiber. This is an example of a great food to eat.

Highly processed foods, on the other hand, can be found in fast food restaurants, pre-made dinner aisles at grocery stores and the snack aisle. Fast food companies are usually focused on creating just that, fast food. They don’t spend a lot of time on ensuring you are getting the proper balance of grease to vegetables. Large food companies have found that they can create foods that taste good and are addictive to customers through flavor modifications and additives. Craving processed foods is good for manufacturers but bad for consumers because they fill up on processed foods and miss out on good foods that will help their bodies build up healthy immune systems.

Having a balanced diet does not mean you have to cut out your favorite kind of cookies, greasy hamburgers and potato chips. For anyone that as been taking drugs it means that you also have to cut out these harmful substances as well as alcohol. It means you have to balance your treats with good foods. By having a good balance, your body will be healthier and you will feel better. It takes some effort but your body will thank you.

Addicts Tend to Have Poor Diets

Remembering to balance your diet while using drugs can be very difficult. Different drugs have different effects on one’s desire to eat. Cocaine, for example, can cause one to lose his appetite completely. Marijuana, on the other hand, can cause one to get very hungry or get the “munchies.” Crystal Meth addicts will forget to eat and crave foods high in sugar and carbohydrates.   These cravings, or lack thereof, cause the body’s immune system to get very stressed. A stressed immune system makes it very hard for a person to avoid illness and combat an addiction to drugs.

Spending Money on Drugs Not Nutrition

Another effect of drugs on a person’s nutrition is that addicts usually focus on spending their money on more drugs, not on proper nutritional foods. Fast food and junk foods that have been processed are cheaper to produce and therefore cheaper to sell in stores making them ideal foods for munchies and sugary cravings. They are easy to access as they are sold in all grocery stores, mini marts and vending machines.

How to Use Nutrition to Fight Addiction

When the immune system is stressed it is hard for your body to properly function. It is even harder to combat addiction. It is not an easy task to tackle alone. That’s why at many drug treatment programs nutrition is a key part to their wellness program. They are there to provide nutritional help to recovering addicts to get them off drugs, get their bodies healthy and back on the road to a happy healthy lives.

Some of the services that these programs provide include:

  • Nutritional assessments
  • Vitamin programs
  • Meal planning
  • Exercise (daily that is fit into the treatment schedule)
  • Personal training
  • Health and wellness education

Building the body back up is essential to recovery from addiction. The immune system will recover with time off drugs (or alcohol) along with healthy eating, exercise, vitamin and mineral supplements and a good sleeping schedule.

Sources: Healthy Eating –

Many Hands Sustainability Center: Nutrition In Addiction Recovery –

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