Drug and alcohol abuse takes a heavy toll on the body. Regular drug abuse can suppress the appetite, which will end up robbing the body of nutrients that are vital for good health.
In some cases, drug and alcohol abuse can cause cravings for unhealthy foods, which leads people to binge on choices that are laden with fat and sugar, which deplete the body of energy in a short amount of time.
Drug and alcohol abuse can eventually lead to malnutrition, as the recovering addict uses all her money to get more of her substance of choice. Whatever stage of addiction and nutrient deprivation you have, learn in rehab how to make good choices about food, and you will master an important part of your treatment.
Drugs, Alcohol and the Body
According to the US National Library of Medicine, substance abuse harms the body in the following distinct ways:
- The substance interacts with and changes the body
- Substance abuse creates poor lifestyle choices, like unhealthy and irregular eating patterns
Recovery from substance abuse can impact the body’s metabolism and organ function. The following of drug classes affect the body in unique ways:
- Opiates – This class of drug includes morphine, heroin, oxycontin and codeine. Regular use and abuse of opiates leads to constipation, but withdrawal symptoms from these drug can cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms lead to electrolyte imbalance and a lack of nutrients. Eating at regular intervals can help, but eating can often be difficult due to nausea.
- Alcohol – This drug causes nutrient deficiency in many areas, but the most common are a lack of vitamin B6, thiamine and folic acid. A lack of these nutrients leads to anemia and neurological problems. Alcohol abuse also damages the liver and pancreas, both of which are vital to proper metabolism. When alcoholics are at their worst, they often derive more than 50% of their daily caloric intake from alcohol.
- Stimulants – These drugs (crack, cocaine and methamphetamine) lead to weight loss and lack of proper nutrition. Electrolyte imbalances and dehydration can result, as well as the inability to maintain a proper weight.
When someone feels well, he is less likely to begin using drugs again. Someone who feels better after addiction recovery will rebuild his body through good nutrition and proper eating habits. Eating meals at regular times, choosing foods that are rich in protein and low in fat and eating plenty of complex carbohydrates is the best place to begin this work. During recovery, vitamin and mineral supplements may also be helpful.
One of the first and most important steps during addiction recovery is detox. During detox, the body has the chance to rid itself of the toxins of the drug. Patients in detox may find that their appetites are significantly decreased during this period, which usually lasts from three to five days.
Once detox is over, replenishing the body with healthy foods is vital to the start of treatment. Your rehab team of doctors and therapists may recommend a light diet at first to combat any nausea associated with detox and to begin dealing with malnutrition. During these early days of rehab, following an eating plan for your specific needs is crucial to beginning your recovery journey on a solid footing.
Proper nutrition helps in the recovery process, because quality nutrients help repair cell damage done by drugs. They also give the body energy, repair organ tissue and strengthen the immune system. A person with a healthy immune system is less likely to crave drugs or alcohol to make herself feel better. During drug rehab, your recovery professionals will include nutrition counseling and monitoring as part of your rehab plan. Nutrition counseling helps you learn what your body needs to help you heal and function at optimum levels.
Alyssa Salz, MS, RD, LD for Today’s Dietitian Magazine suggests that proper nutrition and hydration are key components to the recovery process, because they restore both physical and mental health and return the body to a state of functionality. These benefits allow healing to take place, so a healthful lifestyle that includes quality nutrition will promote a healthy mind. A healthy mind is better able to make good choices when it comes to drug use, as discontinuing drug use and beginning a life of recovery is the goal. In short, adding a nutritional component to recovery increases the likelihood of treatment success.
Healing of the body, mind and spirit means people must address all the issues that contributed to them developing an addiction. When someone receives nutrition counseling and monitoring during rehab, they increases the chances of a successful recovery and greatly reduces their risk of relapse.