Drug and alcohol abuse is prevalent in America today and contributes to a host of problems. Addiction costs the country more than $740 billion annually due to losses in productivity, health care costs, and crime. Addiction takes a toll on the personal lives of addicts and their families, causing personal pain, damaged relationships, and broken families. And addiction certainly exacts a cost on the health of the user: addiction can lead to death, infectious disease, or chronic health problems, even after recovery. One less commonly noted impact of addiction on health is a vitamin deficiency. Read more to learn about the importance of vitamins and nutrition in recovery from addiction.
Addiction-Related Vitamin Deficiency
Malnutrition is fairly common among people suffering from addiction; one study shows that 70% of addicts suffer from vitamin D deficiency and low levels of vitamin C, and another study shows that 50% of addicts in detox are deficient in either iron or vitamins, especially vitamins A, C, and E. These deficiencies stem from two causes: primary and secondary malnutrition. In primary malnutrition, addicts fail to eat a nourishing diet, choosing to abuse drugs or alcohol instead of eating. They consume too few calories overall, and the foods that they choose to eat may fail to provide proper nutrition. This can be because some drugs specifically impact appetite; for example, stimulant drugs, such as methamphetamine, can suppress appetite and disrupt hormonal regulation, interfering with calorie consumption and nutrient processing. With secondary malnutrition, the addict consumes sufficient calories but the substance abuse causes improper nutrient metabolism, absorption, utilization, or excretion.
Importance of Vitamins and Nutrition in Recovery
Whether the cause is an overall lack of calories or failure to properly digest and absorb calories, the fact is that many addicts enter addiction treatment in a malnourished state that can interfere with recovery. Poor nutrition causes low levels of neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that pass messages from one part of the brain to another. Low neurotransmitter levels can cause depression, agitation, and dysregulation during the early phases of recovery. Specifically, low levels of serotonin cause sleep problems, irritability, and depression. Low dopamine levels can cause aggression and drug cravings.
How can nutrition help during recovery? Are there specific drug detox vitamins? The answer is yes. By supplementing the addict in recovery with the building blocks of these neurotransmitters, they can rebuild their neurotransmitter levels to help overcome mental health problems during recovery. Vitamins and supplements that can help include:
- Amino acids: critical for the building of neurotransmitters
- Folic acid and Vitamins B6 and B12 for serotonin production
- Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to improve neurotransmitter function and help with depression
- Iron to help with fatigue, depression, and attention
- Vitamin D to improve immune function
As addicts transition to life in recovery, they often experience drug cravings, irritability, anxiety, and depression. Addressing the vitamin deficiencies can help to ease those symptoms.
If we look at methamphetamine use, in particular, there are specific health concerns for people recovering from meth addiction. Methamphetamine users often struggle with dental problems, including dental disease and missing teeth. These dental problems can impact what recovering meth addicts can eat, and these dietary constraints must be taken into consideration during recovery. It may be useful to consult a nutritionist for help in finding foods of the right consistency that will still provide sufficient vitamins and nutrition in recovery.
A Healthy Approach to Recovery
Addressing the nutritional needs of the recovering addict is part of a healthy approach to recovery, viewing the addict as a whole person instead of looking only at the drug addiction. In fact, studies show that a healthy body fosters and healthy mind. When the mind and body are in optimal health, the person is less likely to experiment with addictive substances. This is why vitamins and nutrition in recovery are essential to restoring a person to an improved state of health and vitality.
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