Many substance abusers enter treatment suffering from malnutrition and vitamins (i.e., b-vitamins) and mineral deficiencies (i.e., Iron.) Nutrition is often impaired because both drugs and alcohol may serve as appetite suppressants and/or contribute to an inability to digest and absorb calories and nutrients.
Compromised nutrition can impair brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that when functioning normally, transmit messages from different areas of the brain.
Low levels of neurotransmitters can lead to agitation, anxiety, depression, and dysregulation during the early stages of recovery. Low serotonin, for example, can result in insomnia and sleep disturbances, irritation, and depression. Low dopamine levels, on the other hand, can cause aggressiveness and drug/alcohol cravings.
How Does Good Nutrition Boost Recovery?
Supplementing an addict in recovery with nutrition can increase neurotransmitter levels and reduce mental illness during the recovery process. Vitamins and supplements that contribute to well-being and improved health include the following:
- Amino acids are critical for building neurotransmitters
- Folic acid and vitamin B6 and B12 assist with serotonin production
- Iron decreases fatigue, boosts immunity, and improves attention
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fats improve neurotransmitter function and ease depression
- Vitamin D boosts immunity
Example: Meth and Specific Concerns
Each substance can be associated with a different set of health conditions. For example, methamphetamine abusers commonly suffer from dental problems, including disease and missing teeth. These issues can impair food intake, a critical malfunction that must be addressed during the recovery process.
Recovering meth users should consult a nutritionist to help identify foods that are easy to consume that will also provide sufficient vitamins and minerals during recovery.
Addressing Recovery With a “Healthy” Approach
Considering the vitamin and nutritional requirements of a substance abuser is part of an overall holistic approach to addiction and recovery. Research has shown that a healthy body promotes a healthy mind, which contributes to optimal health and a reduced likelihood that a person will use drugs or alcohol. Adequate nutrition is critical to both detox and rehab/recovery.