Food and Drugs: When Binging Becomes a Substitute For Getting High

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As much a struggle

When it comes to an addiction, many people do not think of food as a means of getting high. However, for countless people across the nation, a food addiction is just as much as a struggle as other forms of addiction, including that to street/illicit drugs, pharmaceuticals, and alcohol.

In the same way that substances, like drugs and alcohol, change the neurochemicals in the brain to create a feeling or euphoria, or a “high”, certain foods can also have a similar effect in individuals who struggle with a food addiction.

Many individuals who are recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction may be more susceptible to developing other forms of addictive behaviors, including a food addiction. This may be due to the fact that addiction itself has many similar roots and developmental factors.

For example, people who are prone to addictive type behaviors may have certain personality traits, common genetic predispositions, and the exposure of familial or environmental factors that increase their risk of addiction.

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As a person who was previously addicted to a substance, whether drugs or alcohol, begins to withdraw from the substance itself, they may be more inclined to turn to other substances to “fill the void” or mimic the experience they felt when abusing their drug of choice.

For some individuals, food may begin to be more desirable in place of drugs or alcohol, and some recovering addicts may also feel stronger urges and impulses to eat once a substance is no longer a predominant factor in their body.

Means of escaping

A person may develop a food addiction as a means of escaping, comfort, or masking uncomfortable feelings and emotions.

Typically, the types of foods that are craved by food addicts include those that are more concentrated in refined sugars/carbohydrates and fats, foods that can elicit a feeling of comfort or satisfaction in the brain.

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An individual who develops an addiction to food will also experience uncontrollable cravings for an excessive amount of food, which often leads to symptoms such as binging, obsession with food, isolating, mood swings, and more.

If you or someone you care for has been in recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol but has subsequently developed symptoms of a food addiction, it is important to take these signs and symptoms seriously and consider continuing treatment and professional care.

This may be an indication that the underlying emotional and psychological conditions related to the addiction have not yet fully been resolved, and treatment measures should be continued to ensure recovery.

As you continue your recovery and sobriety from drugs and alcohol, be aware of any signs that may indicate another form of addiction may be occurring.

Remember that it truly does take time to heal and learn how to function normally without the highs that were often experienced when under the influence of a substance and that you might subconsciously seeking out ways to recreate this euphoric state as you continue your healing process.

how-to-talk-to-parents-about-drug-problemFood may seem like a harmless way to find comfort and distraction, but using food in this manner is not desirable, appropriate or healthy.

If you find yourself obsessing about food, frequently binging on certain types of food, avoiding social functions, family, and relationships to eat, or becoming emotionally unstable, consider seeking out professional help to address these concerns.

Continue to work on your sobriety while fully addressing any underlying concerns related to addiction to ensure that you are healing completely: physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually.

Dealing with an addiction and learning to function without the highs that were often experienced by your drug of choice will not be an easy feat, but living without the lows and crashes that are also associated with a drug addiction can be freeing and liberating. Know that you do not have to do this alone, and utilizing the help of professionals can help you heal from the inside out.


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About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 25, 2016
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.