Using Nutrition to Rebuild from Physical Complications of Drug Addiction

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Two fried eggs on white plate for healthy breakfastDrug addiction involves severe and detrimental consequences that impact a person in multiple ways, including their mind, body, and overall ability to thrive in life. Depending on the chronic nature of a drug addiction, a person dealing with substance abuse might experience severe malnutrition as a result of their behavior and lifestyle.

This is a direct result of drugs becoming the primary substance of choice in the body rather than food, and when drugs are the priority, good nutrition is often minimized and left as an after thought.

Restoring Your Body’s Health

One of the most important aspects of healing from an addiction is restoring and replenishing the body nutritionally. Because many drugs compete with nutrition in the body, the body is often robbed of many of the crucial nutrients needed for adequate function.

Individuals addicted to drugs may also find drastic changes in their weight. This is a result of substances influencing appetite, and drug addicts may find a decrease or increase in their weight. Even if there is not a change in weight, malnutrition can result in muscle waste and atrophy, we can also impact over health and wellness of an individual.

How Malnutrition Complicates Health

Only the freshest ingredients for this chefWhile it may not seem like there is a direct connection, nutrition or lack of good nutrition can result in a myriad of physical complications or exacerbate existing problems. Working to reestablish adequate nutrition is an important and key component of nutrition and recovery.

This process must happen gradually and is typically prioritized in the early parts of treatment. Depending on the extent of damage, recovery may take longer, but working to replenish the body is a necessary part of healing.

Reestablishing Health Often Requires Professional Support

If you or someone you care for is recovering from drug addiction, it is crucial to seek out professional treatment to address the many complications that you may be facing. Working with professionals, such as a medical doctor and registered dietitian, can help guide you through the process of recovery and rebuilding yourself medically and nutritionally.

A registered dietitian can help set you up with a meal plan, which can serve as a guide for you to know what, when, and how much to eat. Much of this basic knowledge of how to nourish your body can be lost in the process of drug addiction, so relearning these new habits may take some time.

What Does Adequate Nutrition Look Like?

vegetables-573958_640Adequate nutrition will include a variety of food and balanced, cohesive meals and snacks. Aiming for foods that are nutrient dense can help provide your body with a variety of vitamins and minerals that are essential for supporting your health. This may come from a variety of whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy.

Eating foods from each of the food groups can help ensure that you are giving your body many opportunities to have the nutrients needed for a healthy lifestyle. Another key component of nutrition involves hydration. When drugs are the primary substance being ingested, the body is usually stripped of hydration.

As water is a main constitute of the body, including cells, tissues, muscles and organs, making sure you are staying hydrated is essential to your health and recovery.

Emergency Measures to Restore Health

In some severe cases, medical intervention is necessary to replete the body of lost nutrients due to a drug addiction. This may require hospitalization to administer IV fluids, feedings, or other nutrients as needed. While this can be a difficult part of recovery, repleting the body of these crucial nutrients is necessary for maintaining health and preventing any serious medical complications from occurring.

Healing from addiction begins with healing the body medically and nutritionally. Adequate nutrition is a key component to repairing physical damage that may have occurred in the body as a result of a drug addiction.

If you are not sure how to begin the process of healing from a drug addiction, be sure to reach out to someone you trust to confide in about your struggles. Addiction Hope also offers a directory of treatment centers and providers that can help connect you to the treatment you need. Have hope in knowing that healing and recovery is possible!

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Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 7th, 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.