Nutrition for Adolescents in Recovery from Addiction

Contributed by: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope

Somersault on the Grass

Adolescents in recovery from addiction will have specialized needs as they heal, physically, emotionally, mentally and more.

Because adolescents are still in a phase of growth and development, they will also have specific nutritional needs, especially in recovering from the effects of an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

The nutrient needs for an adolescent are higher than most age groups, and these needs can be increased in the light of other medical complications or in repairing damaging physical effects in the body.

Find Professional Help

If you have an adolescent in your life that is recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it is crucial that you seek professional help for your loved one. A physician can determine what medical conditions need to be addressed as well as the best course for treatment and recovery for your adolescent.

To support the growth and development phase that your adolescent is in; having adequate nutrition and hydration will also be an important aspect of their recovery process. Drugs and alcohol often strip the body of the needed nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are needed for growth, and replenishing these nutrients will help ensure their body can continue growing properly.

Drug and/or alcohol addiction can also influence appetite, and you might find that your child has had abnormal weight trends while engaged in addictive behaviors. Nutrition can help address these concerns as well and ensure that weight and growth is adequate.

Monitoring Nutrition

Woman runner running jogging in summer parkLet’s take a look at some of the key nutrients your adolescent will need as they recover from addiction. The amount of these nutrients will vary based on individual needs and the presence of other medical conditions, which can also impact nutrient needs.

If your adolescent is receiving treatment as part of a multidisciplinary specialty team, they will likely have the opportunity to work with a Registered Dietitian, who can help monitor their nutrition status.

  • Carbohydrates: Having sufficient carbohydrates in the diet will help ensure that the body has enough fuel for energy and growth. Carbohydrates can come in simple and complex forms. Carbohydrates also provide important nutrients, such as B-vitamins, which contribute to many processes in the body. Fueling the body with sufficient carbohydrates will protect vital organs and muscle from being used as a fuel source.
  • Protein: Protein is the key for building and repairing tissues in the body as well as for producing hormones, enzymes, protecting the immune system and more. Protein is essential for maintaining health and will be a key part of recovering from addiction as the body repairs itself from any damage that has been done. Protein is also important for the adolescent who is actively growing. Protein can be found from both animal and plant sources.
  • Fats: Fat not only provides the body with a concentrated source of energy, but it is also an essential building block for every cell in the body. For adolescents especially, who are experiencing puberty, having sufficient fat in the diet will help support the changes the body is undergoing. Fat in the diet also helps the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in the body, which are crucial for development and growth, including vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • Closeup on smiling teenager girl eating apple

  • Micronutrients: Vitamins and minerals, which are considered micronutrients, are widely needed to support the many changes an adolescent body will be experiencing. This includes B-Vitamins, Vitamin C, and key minerals such as Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, and Sodium. The best way to ensure you are consuming the vitamins and minerals your body needs is by eating a wide-variety of foods in your diet. Also taking a multivitamin/mineral can help cover the bases of micronutrients needed in the body.
  • Hydration: Adequate hydration is also an important part of nutrition and recovery from addiction. Many adolescents might use energy drinks or excessive caffeine, but in addiction recovery, it is best to avoid substances that are interfering with nutrition restoration.

Recovery from addiction as an adolescent is a complex process that can be guided by the help of professionals. Nutrition is a key factor in the recovery process, and the body can be restored and replenished from the damaging effects of addiction with a sufficient diet.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you experienced addiction recovery with an adolescent? What role did nutrition play in their recovery?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 20th, 2015
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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.