The Importance of Nutrition During Recovery

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Alcohol abuse is one of the most prominent causes of nutritional deficiencies in the United States affecting the body’s metabolism and organ function, according to the National Library of Medicine. Excessive substance abuse prevents the body from processing amino acids, which are “essential for emotional stability, mental clarity, and a general state of well-being” (alcoholicsvictorious.org). Amino acids are found in meat, poultry, and seafood.

According to the Addictions and Recovery website, the first rule of recovery is to avoid “high-risk situations.” The acronym, HALT, describes four everyday experiences that may lead to relapse. “Hunger” leads the way, emphasizing the importance of nutrition as the first letter in the acronym, and is followed by anger, loneliness, and tiredness. Hunger may lead to anger or fatigue because one’s body is accustomed to the feelings induced by substance use. If one becomes accustomed to a healthy diet, their body is less likely to crave the substances it has been ingesting.

It is recommended that people recovering from substance abuse eat at regular mealtimes, abstain from foods that are high in fat, and eat balanced meals. Fluids are also important because dehydration is common during recovery. Casa Palmera recognizes the importance of nutrition and strives to provide healthy, satisfying food for patients in recovery. Not only does Casa offer balanced meals, it focuses on serving them at consistent intervals, with the ultimate goal of educating their patients about healthy eating habits.

Here is a sample of Casa’s breakfast menu, which contains a selection of proteins, carbs, and fats, all of which are essential to a healthy diet:
Casa Palmera breakfast menu

Mindfulness Meditation and Brain Health

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Research by Johns Hopkins University shows, “mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain”. When a person becomes stressed, the adrenal gland produces a steroid hormone called cortisol to regulate and manage stress in the body. Prolonged release of cortisol can result in a wide-range of negative effects on many different psychological systems. Research is able to measure the levels of cortisol in the body and has found that mindfulness meditation helps decrease the cortisol, which is a direct result of stress levels decreasing. When stress levels are lowered we are able to make better decisions and our memory becomes stronger. Neuroplasticity, or “the brain’s ability to change structurally and functionally” is shown to increase as well. The practice of living in the moment is beginning to sound like a medical breakthrough, is it not?

Living “in the Moment”

Mindfulness meditation originated as a Buddhist meditation technique, but has become increasingly popular as the practice has shifted from the spiritual realm towards one that is supported by clinical evidence. Skepticism is turning into acceptance as the benefits of mindfulness meditation continue to be shown again and again through research. Mindfulness meditation means learning how to be present and “in the moment”. When we are living in the past, we sometimes allow ourselves to experience feelings of depression, shame, and grief. In addition, when we live in the future we sometimes allow ourselves to experience feelings of anxiety, fear, and worry.

Effects of Meditation

Practicing mindfulness meditation teaches people the ability to “let go of unhelpful feelings about the past and the future, and instead, focus their energy on the present. Concentrating on one’s environment and being calm, physically and mentally, is one of the many positive effects of mindfulness. It is not necessary to sit down to practice mindfulness meditation; “any activity that you perform where you stay fully present, completely and non-judgmentally rooted ‘in the now’ can count as a mindfulness meditation technique”, according to stress.about.com. However, the ideal environment in which to meditate is one that is quiet and comfortable. One must have a focus of attention, such as a breathing technique, and the ability to let distractions pass without interruption. There are countless benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation leading to improving one’s ability to focus, alleviate stress, and maintain control over one’s life.

How Casa Palmera Can Help

Casa Palmera wants to help you with your specific mental health needs. We want to help you find your true self and create a life based on what is genuinely important. At Casa Palmera, you will learn, grow and change as we help take you to a higher level of health, functioning and self awareness.

National Recovery Month and the Benefits of Holistic Healing

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September is National Recovery Month, a time devoted to the celebration of recovery from mental health and substance abuse problems. Not only does this month serve to educate the public about the importance of these issues, it also focuses on the positive side of treatment. This year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is promoting National Recovery Month by taking up the mantra, “Visible, Vocal, and Valuable!” which emphasizes awareness and mentoring as means of prevention and treatment. For Casa Palmera, what better way to celebrate September than to bring awareness to the benefits of a holistic healing approach?

At Casa Palmera, we emphasize treating the whole person, including physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, social, spiritual and lifestyle values. Holistic medicine, commonly known as “alternative” or “complementary” medicine, is sometimes dismissed as ineffective. However, by acknowledging a whole-person perspective, Casa Palmera is able to help patients recover with methods that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Determining the Root Cause of an Addiction

One of the better-known components of holistic healing is the search for the root cause of a patient’s symptoms. This is extremely beneficial for trauma patients, whose past experiences have culminated in PTSD or anxiety disorder. The knowledge of the root cause of symptoms is also beneficial for dual diagnosis patients: it is important to know if the mental illness occurred before or was a result of substance abuse. By taking into account the entirety of a patient’s experience, the caregiver has a knowledge base with which they are enabled to provide them with quality care.

Dual diagnosis patients can benefit from the “mind, body, spirit” approach to healing which emphasizes the “whole-person”. Patients with both a mental illness and a substance abuse problem should be treated for both conditions simultaneously. Recognition of both the mental and physical state of a person, along with the spiritual impact their condition has had, is essential to the practice of holistic healing.

According to the National Institute of Health, over thirty percent of adults in the United States partake in alternative medicine or that which is developed outside of mainstream Western medicine. These activities may include the consumption of natural products, doing yoga, or practicing meditation. “Integrative medicine” is the combination of traditional medicine and holistic medicine, and is part of the treatment philosophy at Casa Palmera.

Casa Palmera offers a variety of opportunities for their patients’ recovery. By treating the root cause of their symptoms, integrating traditional medicine with the beneficial aspects of holistic healing, and providing a welcoming environment, this facility is able to provide patients with an experience that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

Alcohol Use Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

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Approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Upon learning of this shocking statistic, one begins to understand the prevalence of alcohol abuse and its devastating effects.

The 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, published in 2013 takes into account mild, moderate, and severe classifications of alcohol use disorder (AUD). The classification can be determined by one’s responses to the criteria presented in the DSM 5. The criteria is listed in order of increasing severity. However, it is not separated into two categories as the 1994 DSM-IV was. This newer edition encompasses more symptoms and does not assign either “alcohol abuse” or “alcohol dependence” to any one of its criteria, according to NIAAA. A severe case is both life-threatening and difficult to recover from without help. AUD is to be taken seriously, regardless of classification. It is important to consider these differences when recognizing and treating AUD. The presence of two symptoms signifies a mild AUD, four to five a moderate case of AUD, and six or more a severe cases as severe. Signs and symptoms of an AUD include neglecting responsibilities, exhibiting dangerous behaviors while under the influence, and drinking heavily to relieve stress. Mild to moderate AUD might also be referred to as “problem drinking.” This nickname gives insight to the fact that this disorder could signify future descent into severe AUD.

If AUD is not quickly recognized and treated, the issues of dependency and withdrawal become factors in the user’s recovery. Furthermore, health complications often arise as the problem worsens. These include a weakened immune system, liver failure, and permanent brain damage. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink [heavily]”.

Not only can alcohol abuse affect the user, but it can also take its toll on family and friends. AUD is often characterized by irresponsible behavior at home or in the workplace. An attempt at “stress-relief” by inebriation has the opposite effect, creating tension between family members and health problems for the user. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems.

Approximately one-third of adults in the U.S. will have AUD at some point in their lives, but only twenty percent seek treatment. NIAAA Director George F. Koob said, “These findings underscore that alcohol problems are deeply entrenched and significantly under-treated in our society.” The sooner the symptoms of AUD are recognized, the sooner the person will be able to quit drinking and improve their quality of life. A reported 16.6 million adults had AUD in 2013, and only about 1.3 million received treatment at a “specialized facility.” Perhaps there is a correlation between widespread resistance to treatment and rising alcohol consumption in the United States.

Once a person has committed to the treatment of AUD, they must consider their options. Holistic healing, which focuses on the connection between the mind, body, and spirit of a patient, has been proven effective by years of practice by treatment centers such as Casa Palmera. As holistic health is characterized as a “lifestyle” by the American Holistic Health Association, it has the potential to benefit the patient throughout their life.

8 Modern-Day Signs Of Addiction

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A Disease of the Brain

Technology helps uncover the destructiveness of substance abuse, providing several opportunities to identify addiction.

In 2014, the President’s National Drug Control Strategy stated a commitment to “…a smarter, more humane approach to drug policy in the 21st century,” addressing addiction as a disease of the brain that is preventable through education, and best treated through early intervention.

1. The Double Edged Sword That is Social Media

The media regularly churns out news about twenty-first century addictions, from Facebook to online gaming. Some troubling statistical links exist between teens’ use of social media and their likelihood of smoking, drinking or using pot.
According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbia), teenagers who spend time on social media sites are:

  • 5 times likelier to use tobacco
  • 3 times likelier to use alcohol
  • Twice as likely to use marijuana

The upside of social media is that those images of drug and alcohol abuse, while embarrassing, are public. They provide loved ones with a chance at early detection and intervention.

2. Texts Tell a Tale of Addiction

Gaining access to another’s texts is difficult. However, even a glimpse of a part of a text conversation may be enough to reveal possible addiction issues.

In 2013, a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst named Logan died of a heroin overdose. His text messages document his demise. Logan’s texts mentioned “shrooms, weed and …molly” along with references to regular shipments from Amsterdam, according to a Boston Globe report. Later, he texted about his troubles with the law and his attempts to go through heroin withdrawal. He also expressed worry over how his parents would feel if they knew about his addiction, but mentioned that if he went to rehab, “they’d be happy I was getting help and also pissed.”

If even one thread of texts had gotten to the right person, Logan may have received the treatment he needed.

3. A Pocket of Paraphernalia

Piecing together small clues may reveal a substance abuse issue. It need not be actual drugs or hard-core drug paraphernalia, such as needles. Even finding a lighter, a roach clip, or a small baggie with an herb-like residue in someone’s pockets may initiate a conversation.

4. Developing Issues at School or in the Workplace

Changes in behavior often indicate of addiction issues.

  • Repeated reprimands at work for violations of internet use during work hours
  • An increasing pattern of absence or tardiness
  • Numerous sick days
  • Decreased interest and productivity in school and/or employment
  • Strategic avoidance of activities or requirements that would reveal substance abuse

For parents of adolescents and teens, technology may provide some early addiction indicators. For instance, most schools now use parent portals for posting grades, absences, and disciplinary matters.

5. The Internet and Substance Abuse

Addictive behavior encompasses many things:

“Any activity, substance, object, or behavior that has become the major focus of a person’s life to the exclusion of other activities, or that has begun to harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially is considered an addictive behavior.”

This is not say that internet use equates a substance abuse problem. However, addictive behavior in one area makes someone a higher risk in developing an addiction elsewhere.

Additionally, browsing the history of a suspected addict in any given day may reveal a great deal about whether or not an issue exists.

6. A Change in Appearance

Although many addicts manage to look and act fairly normally, watch for changes in:

  • Personal hygiene and grooming
  • Physical appearance of the eyes, complexion, and/or bruising
  • Increase in concealing clothing or situational inappropriate clothing

Even if changes in appearance are not apparent in person, social media partying pictures may tell a very different story about the person. A continuous pattern of photos showing someone dressed oddly or inappropriately, with a glazed appearance, or just plain looking wasted may be a harbinger of addiction issues.

7. Sudden Secrecy

Installing a lock on a bedroom door may raise drug use concerns. However, secrecy concerns now show up in the virtual world as well:

  • Creation of an alternate identity used on Facebook or other social media sites that differs greatly from the “official” one
  • Use of disposable phones
  • Travel to unusual locations revealed through GPS histories

8.Income and Spending

When someone suddenly has more money to spend on non-necessities, it is not always because of a wage hike. They may be “earning” extra income from their dealer, or may be spending more due to drug-addled impulse control. A sudden request to borrow money with no good explanation of need may indicate someone who needs drug money. The individual may even steal money and household items, along with prescription drugs or alcohol.

Daily living is more complicated than ever and many parents are unaware of how to be involved in their child’s day to day life. Honing in on certain cues and behaviors can help with early detection. Early intervention results in much better recovery rates, and can save everyone from long-term heartache.

Variety is the Spice of Life. Or is It? The Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

 
On July 11, 2014, 19-year-old Connor Eckhardt decided to try synthetic pot. The cause of his momentary lapse of judgment is debatable. Peer pressure? Dangerously enticing marketing strategies of synthetic drug manufacturers? The outcome, however, was both inarguable and irreversible. After just one hit of this chemically altered plant material, more commonly known as “Spice,” Eckhardt slipped into a coma from which he would never awake.

This tragic story is one of many that have arisen from the issue of synthetic drugs. Trendy names, ever-changing chemical structures, and colorful packaging have made synthetic marijuana a drug of choice (and a death sentence) for far too many. Teens are the target demographic for manufacturers, who market their products as “plant food” or “herbal incense.” These cheap, eye-catching sachets are known not for their advertised abilities, but for their potency. Due to their unique chemical structures, synthetic drugs are not recognized by traditional drug screens. Manufacturers attempt to evade the evolution of laws and regulations by altering the chemical makeup of their products. This is why there are so many different variations of Spice, also called “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “K2,” and “Scooby Snax.” The grinning maw of a mystery-solving mutt on the package lends intrigue to the experience of the younger demographic while managing to dissuade the suspicion of officials.

What is Spice?

Spice is a type of Synthetic Cannabinoid similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, or “THC,” the active ingredient in marijuana. Side effects include severe anxiety, nausea, elevated blood pressure, and hallucinations. This slew of harmful consequences is made possible by the ingredient list, which changes as manufacturers adapt as laws change and bans are placed on specific formulations of their product. Some varieties of Spice can be two to five hundred times more potent than traditional marijuana (Allegheny County, MD Health Department), and few people know exactly what goes into them. It is the ever-evolving process of their creation that makes this drug so dangerous.

“The one overriding message on these things is that you don’t know what you’re getting,” said Barbara Carreno, spokesperson of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This was her response to hearing that over three hundred U.S. citizens were admitted to the emergency room after using Spice in April of 2015. This shocking number accounts for the widespread problem that is Spice. It is easily accessible, deceivingly packaged, and innocently advertised, leaving customers to assume it will get them high rather than cause their death. However, it is important to stay aware of the dangers of using Spice, or any other drug. If a friend or family member becomes involved with drug abuse, it is recommended that they seek immediate treatment if not long-term rehabilitation.

About Casa Palmera
Casa Palmera offers a diversity of drug addiction treatments for all substance abuse complications. If you or a loved one needs immediate help, please call now for a free consultation.

Social Media and the Glorification of Addiction

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The Twenty-First Century Face of Substance Abuse

An addiction may start out as an isolated incident, often something to try out with friends. Unfortunately, for many, those few hours of a high can turn into a compulsion to use regularly. This compulsion and activities revolving around it can eventually negatively interferes with jobs, relationships, and/or health.

The Link Between Addiction and Social Media

A study out of the University of Albany found that not only is social media potentially addictive on its own, but that an addiction to social media may be linked to impulse control issues that contribute to substance abuse problems.

Social Media Lets the Good Times Roll

Statistics regarding teens, social networking sites, and substance abuse are startling:

  • 40% had viewed pictures on social media depicting teens and adolescents drinking, passed out, or using drugs
    • 50% of viewers saw such images when they were 13 or younger
    • 90% first viewed the photos when they were 15 or younger
  • Teens who viewed pictures on social media depicting substance abuse were at a higher risk to abuse substances:
    • Three times more likely to use alcohol
    • Four times more likely to obtain and/or use marijuana
    • Close to three times more likely to have controlled prescription drugs without a prescription

Social Media Posting Motivations

Posting details of personal overindulgences on social media may indicate a higher clinical risk of developing drinking problems, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study. It must also be noted that many people exhibit incredibly poor judgment when posting things on social media, even without the influence of some mind altering substances. Often, it is a matter of poor impulse control, or a desire to look “cool” and fit in. Even though poor impulse control is a symptom of the disease, there is far more to it than just that.

The personal relationships forged through social media differ greatly from those made in real life. They offer much less connection for young people and if there is connection, it is for the wrong reasons. Young adults want to be important, or in the words of some made, “famous” through their social media exploits. In many ways social media is a form of social climbing, in an attempt to fit in. A big part of fitting in is glorifying partying and questionable behavior. More “likes” mean more “fame.” Part of the expected behavior is the shock and awe factor. Not participating leads to FOMO—fear of missing out.

The Negatives of Social Media Depicting Substance Abuse

College students who post the details of their drunken nights on Facebook can end up with a few problems on their hands – embarrassment, regret, or explanations to parents and/or school officials. They may also pay the price after graduation. Many prospective employers check out social media sites for details on applicants, and are often not pleased with what they see. Beyond the noted consequences, the individual may end up with a lifelong addiction problem.

Challenging Grotesque Online Glorification

Former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano, Jr. has strong words for social networking sites:

“The relationship of social networking site images of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs…to increased teen risk of substance abuse offers grotesque confirmation of the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words…

The time has come for those who operate and profit from social networking sites like Facebook to deploy their technological expertise to curb such images and to deny use of their sites to children and teens who post pictures of themselves and their friends drunk, passed out or using drugs. Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse.”

Using Social Media as a Wake up Call

Most families are shocked and dismayed after discovering social media posts depicting a loved one in a compromising situation involving some type of substance abuse. Families may use these images as a way to help a loved one understand they have a problem, when they would otherwise be in denial of addiction issues. For some, those embarrassing posts become a tool in helping them early in recovery, eventually achieving sobriety.

Gateway to Alcohol Abuse: Effects of Peer Pressure and College Living On Young Adults

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As we enter the month of June, many students are busy welcoming the end of another semester yet bogged down by the stress of the always daunting final exams. Most college students are looking ahead to what is just around the corner, which frequently includes raging parties to blow off steam and celebrating the completion of finals. While college drinking has been depicted in many books and movies as the “glorified” pastime, often times this excessive drinking can contribute to short and long-term problems.

Remember the Glory Days

From drinking songs to beer pong, movies glamourizing excessive teenage drinking, and family members sharing tales of alcohol filled benders, a culture has developed that embraces college drinking to the excess. Many students enter college on a quest to participate in the glamorized “college experience” that is riddled with drinking and partying. Unfortunately for some, this is the beginning of the serious disease of addiction that impacts so many lives.

A Taste of Freedom

For most college students, living on campus is their first encounter with personal freedom and independence. They are no longer concerned about being grounded or disciplined by their parents. However, the newfound freedom comes at a pivotal time in the life of a young college student. While considered to be an “adult” in many ways, studies have shown that the brain does not fully mature until around the age of 25 years. While succumbing to peer pressure, they lack the ability to monitor themselves or others.

College Students and Peer Pressure

According to a study by Syracuse University that researched “Peer influences on College Drinking”, peer pressure is a result of three powerful influences:

  • Overt Offers: From polite to intense pressure to consume alcohol
  • Modeling: Behavior corresponds to that of other students
  • Social Norms: Excessive drinking considered normal

Where families once provided much of the influence on a teenager’s life, a college student’s behavior is now molded by other individuals who may be irresponsible, inexperienced, and impulsive.

A Drinking Culture

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism published a study on the “Diagnosis and Assessment of Alcohol Use Disorders Among Adolescents” that reported on the culture of drinking amidst college students between the ages of 18 and 22 and determined the following results:

  • Over 60 percent drank alcohol in the month prior to the survey, compared to 51.9 percent of same-age peers not in college
  • Over 40.1 percent engaged in binge drinking (five or more drinks) compared to 35 percent of their non-college peers
  • More than 14 percent engaged in heavy drinking (five or more drinks per occasion five or more times per month) compared to 10.7 percent of non-college peers

The consequences for those who regularly participated in alcohol-related activities showed an increased number of skipped classes, poor grades, and falling behind in studies.

Serious Dangers of College Drinking

Alcohol related incidents involving college students aged 18 to 24 is a growing concern for parents and administrators as well as the community. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provided the following statistics reporting on the consequences of college age drinking:

  • Each year there are about 1,825 college students who die from alcohol-related injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes
  • Almost 700,000 students are assaulted by other students who have been drinking
  • Approximately 97,000 students fall victim to alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape

Additionally, about a fifth of college students meet the criteria for a diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder. Those who develop the disorder early in life tend to have more significant alcohol issues as they get older.

Post-Graduation Impact of Alcohol Abuse

Researchers believe that the adolescent brain is far more susceptible to damage due to alcohol abuse than the adult brain. Even those who do not develop an addiction problem are putting themselves at risk for other problems including death, injury, assault, sexual abuse, unsafe sex, academic problems, suicide, depression and problems with the law. Intervention and getting treatment is vital in overcoming an addiction. However, while one in five college students may meet the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder, only five percent seek treatment according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Treatment for College Students with Alcohol Abuse Problems

Identifying addiction problems in college students presents a challenge due to the culture of the “college experience”. However, college campuses are taking a more proactive approach in providing support through alcohol education, limiting the availability of alcohol, offering more alcohol-free activities, along with providing strong leadership among staff members and improved partnerships within the community and among the parents. Treatment for this age group is often highly successful providing students with an opportunity to meet their full potential and develop the tools needed to stay sober.

Mental Health and Dual Diagnosis

With breast cancer awareness month, and many other disease-awareness months in rotation, many people forget about another type of important and life-changing disease—mental health diseases, the invisible health issue. May is National Mental Health Month, and it’s important to take this time and learn more about mental illness and why that and addiction can potentially go hand in hand if left unattended.

Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

Many people who have anxiety or mood problems have what people call “addictive personalities.” Addictions can range from alcohol, drugs or even eating disorders, and they all stem from some sort of mental health issue. Sometimes—those who suffer from depression and are alcoholics—believe when they drink they are feeling better and less depressed. However, over a long period of time, it’s the alcohol that’s causing the depression more so than the mental health disease. So not only are they addicts, but they have depression, two co-occurring disorders. These individuals need a treatment plan that focuses on Dual Diagnoses, which fixes the mental illness issue in addition to the addiction.

Drugs and Alcohol and Mental Health

For people who have mood disorders, anxiety disorders or PTSD, imbibing drugs and alcohol tend to make the individual feel like they can numb the anxiety and the pain. They end up trying to self-medicate their mental illness instead of going to get the help they need from a rehabilitation center. Alcohol or drug abuse can worsen the symptoms of people with mood disorders, anxiety or PTSD and they might not even know it’s happening.

Know the Signs

Be aware. Signs of a depression mood disorder include feelings of hopelessness and lost of interest in daily activities. These people might also have a lot of self-loathing or act in reckless behavior, including drinking too much. Signs of an anxiety mood disorder may include heart palpitations, chest pain, tingling of limbs because of hyperventilation and having panic attacks and having trouble interacting with others—especially in large groups. If an individual is suffering from bipolar disorder, they will have unpredictable mood swings. They can also have depression-like symptoms. Those with PTSD have issues with dealing with normal life situations after a trauma. They may use drugs or alcohol to cope with the isolation and fear they feel.

Eating Disorders and Mental Health

Eating disorders can stem from people attempting to control stress, and deal with fear and anxiety of not being good enough. When life becomes unmanageable, the one thing they can control is food. Many people are never cured of their eating disorder issue, because most places don’t get to the root of the problem—fixing the anxiety or mood disorder.

Know the Signs

There are three main types of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Anorexia involves extreme restriction of the person’s food intake. They will appear extremely thin—think like 15% lower than their normal body weight should be. Bulimia involves binge eating and then purging that after they eat. Signs of binge eating include excessive food intake in one sitting. This eating disorder doesn’t cause unhealthy thinness. It can actually lead to obesity, because binge eating doesn’t involve purging the food after it’s eaten.

This month, try to be especially aware of your friends and loved ones and their actions. Does anyone you know seem to be dependent on alcohol or drugs? There could be an underlying health issue and they need treatment as soon as possible. Remember, just because you can’t see it on the outside, it doesn’t mean they aren’t sick and suffering from a disease.

Nutrition and Recovery

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Eating food for nutrients and energy is essential to sustaining life. All cell, organ, and bodily functions require specific nutrients to function properly. These nutrients help maintain hundreds of things like healthy energy, sleep, skin, immune system, brain function, mental clarity, heart health, mood, and even relaxation. Human beings are complex and one system impacts and effects other bodily systems. Without nutritious food, not only are we not physically healthy, but our mental and emotional health can also be impacted. Thus, while nutrition is perhaps not usually the central focus of a substance abuse recovery program, it is actually an important subsidiary and foundational aspect that can support a faster restoration to health in the short-term and much greater recovery success in the long-term.

Diet Suffers from Substance Abuse

When people struggle with substance abuse, eating a balanced diet is often one of the things that go by the wayside. Mealtimes may become extremely irregular, and people may resort to fast food and convenience foods instead of cooking healthier options. Different types of substances also negatively impact the body’s absorption of nutrients and general health. Opiate-derived drugs, for example, frequently have a negative effect on the digestive system. Alcohol often leads to deficiencies of several important nutrients, such as calcium and B vitamins, as well as damaging the liver and pancreas, both of which are critical to a healthy metabolism. Abuse of stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine can suppress appetite while stimulating a person to be excessively active for long periods of time, often resulting in significant nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, and substantial weight loss. Finally, marijuana abuse can increase the appetite, leading to weight gain and its associated health problems.

Good Nutrition Supports Recovery

Restoring healthier eating habits and learning better self-care helps individuals to recover from substance abuse in multiple ways. Providing the body with the nutrients it needs helps:

  • Enhance the detoxification process and heal damage
  • Restore energy and mood more quickly
  • Bring more clarity to thought process

One common effect of substance abuse is that regardless of whether the substance physiologically suppresses appetite, self-care is usually decreased and eating is no longer an important concern. They may start to interpret physical signals like hunger as cravings for drugs or alcohol and take those instead of eating. People who are recovering from drug or alcohol abuse need to relearn how to interpret these physical signals as hunger instead of a craving for drugs.

Eating, in terms of contributing nutrients and the impact on energy, brain chemistry, and hormone balance, can have significant effects on mood. Therefore, providing someone who is recovering from substance abuse with regular, nutritious meals helps their physical as well as psychological recovery. Along with medication management, sleep, hydration, exercise, and emotional intelligence, an integrative recovery program that includes nutrition can help a person’s mind and body naturally start to feel better so that relapse is less likely. Again, it is not the only factor. However, the reverse is also true — people who continue to have poor eating habits are more likely to return to substance abuse. Those recovering from substance abuse need every advantage they can get, and good food is one of those important factors. Eating well makes everyone feel better, and feeling better physically and mentally is critical to helping people leave substance abuse behind them.