If you’ve battled substance abuse problems – to drugs, alcohol, or even food – you have undoubtedly experienced some less-than-ideal physical situations (temporary or otherwise) as a result of your substance abuse.
Excessive intake of any substance can be damaging – for something to be excessive, you must be using or consuming more than is necessary. This is often unhealthy, and physical or cognitive symptoms may emerge as a result. One of the best ways to fight the physical and mental symptoms of substance abuse – and the most commonly cited way to combat any physical ailment and prevent chronic disease – is simple: eat a healthy, nutritious diet.
Nutrition is the Most Powerful Medicine for Substance Abusers
While you probably already know that substance abuse can cause problems on its own, you might not be aware of how much of an impact your diet can have on these symptoms. We’ve been taught about the importance of our diets since we were in school, and have been told that diet can impact our longevity and our general sense of well-being, but we aren’t told about how important diet can be for people who are struggling with drug addiction.
The extent of most people’s education regarding drugs is that they are deadly, destructive, and should be avoided at all cost. Little attention is given to teaching us about harm reduction, or how to reduce damage and danger in the unfortunate situation that we did end up with drug problems.
Nutrition is a very broad term, but all aspects of it can impact someone with a drug problem – and can even prevent drug problems from emerging. Today, we’re going to look at the basics of different aspects of nutrition and how they can affect a drug or alcohol addiction. Each subsection will link to a full-length article if you’d like to learn more.
1) Nutrition Deficiency Can Cause Addiction
Before we talk about how you can ease the symptoms and destructive nature of a drug addiction with a good diet, we’re going to talk about how good nutrition can prevent you from developing drug addictions in the first place.
A significant number of drug users are self-medicating. However, many people who are self-medicating through the use of illicit drugs have no idea that that’s what they’re doing. Any combination of things could lead to someone self-medicating instead of seeking professional help: distrust of authority and medical professionals, unfortunate or traumatic situations at home, peer pressure, and other things.
Regardless of the reason, self-medication is just as indicative of a problem as a legitimate prescription. Not every problem should be solved with medication, though – a lot of the time, a good understanding of nutrition can help fix a mental health problem before it requires a prescription, or before it develops into a drug addiction.
Nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, neurotransmitter sensitivity, and many other mental and physical functions can be regulated with good health.
Click here to learn more about how nutrition can help prevent addiction.
2) Good Nutrition Can Prevent Damage From Substance Abuse
While good nutrition can prevent substance abuse problems from emerging, that doesn’t help people who are already suffering from drug problems. Fortunately, similar benefits can be had by those maintaining a healthy diet even if they already use drugs.
Drugs can damage the body through a number of mechanisms. Serious drugs like methamphetamine can physically damage the body through contact alone, since it’s caustic. Other drugs cause serious neurochemical imbalances that can have effects that last months. Still other drugs can upset your hormonal systems or take advantage of nutritional deficiencies.
The specific diet that a drug user should maintain depends on the drugs being used. The goal here is to keep certain bodily systems ‘stocked up’ so the drugs don’t cause damage through rapidly depleting certain nutritional pathways.
Click here to find out how nutrition can prevent damage from drugs.
3) Nutritional Supplements Can Enhance the Therapeutic Benefits of Drugs
If you have a good understanding of nutrition, you can use your diet to enhance the effects of drugs. This might initially seem like the farthest thing from harm reduction, but if applied responsibly, it can be helpful for someone with a substance problem.
Many people find that their drug addictions get out of control because of rapidly increasing tolerance. Tolerance causes a user to need more of a drug to experience the same effects, which will cost them more and only lead to further tolerance spikes. Many uses also find that certain desirable effects from drugs disappear after tolerance sets in.
Certain nutritional supplements can offset the development of tolerance to certain drugs. There are also many vitamins, minerals and supplements that target the same neurotransmitter systems as psychoactive drugs. These can alter or enhance the effects, allowing a user to keep their finances stable while trying to seek help for their addiction.
4) Nutrition Can Make it Easier to Stop Using Drugs
Many people find that they are unable to stop using drugs because of the immediate effects of abstinence: withdrawal symptoms that can be seriously debilitating, cravings, and difficulty returning to life.
A lot of these problems can be mediated with the proper nutritional intake. Specific withdrawal symptoms can be targeted with the right supplements, and mental health problems like depression can be mediated with good nutrition.
5) Nutrition Can Repair Damage Done by Drugs
The old school of thought used to be that damage done by drugs was permanent. New research into neurogenesis, however, has proven that the brain is not only capable of building new brain cells, but actually does it on a regular basis.
Nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are two of the best ways to enhance your brain’s ability to produce new neurons (brain cells.) Learning the best ways to generate neurons in the particular areas of the brain affected by drug use can help to restore damage done to those areas.
Click here to see how you can improve neurogenesis with nutrition.