With the exception of marijuana, drug users rarely eat enough to meet and maintain their daily nutritional needs.
We can identify several reasons for this:
- Substances, like stimulants, are known to reduce appetite, and some users may skip meals.
- Lack of time, money, or energy may cause individuals to consume less nutritious foods
- Users may lose nutrients due to vomiting or diarrhea
- Stimulants speed up the metabolism, meaning the body burns through energy and nutrients faster than usual
- Drug use may damage the gut so badly it no longer absorbs nutrients correctly
Because of these variables, frequent drug use can result in significant weight loss. Indeed, some people, especially women, turn to drugs as a weight loss and appetite suppression strategy.
Angular, drug-induced, waifishness became a popular look in the fashion industry in the 80s and 90s. This look, dubbed ‘heroin chic,’ took its name from the appearance of actual heroin users, who became frail, skeletal, and exhausted-looking under the drug’s influence. It was made famous by supermodels like Kate Moss and Gia Carani – who both suffered from debilitating addictions.
These days, glamorizing drug use as a fashion statement is generally frowned upon. Nonetheless, the image of the skinny, wasting drug user remains imprinted on our collective consciousness. But the stereotype is not without a grain of truth. Indeed, fast, significant weight fluctuation is one of the most telling signs that someone may be unwell.
Returning to Health
A good diet is so essential for overall well-being. While proper nutrition is often the first thing to go for those struggling with addiction, it is also one of the first steps to managing recovery.
Food, like drugs, alters the brain’s chemicals (neurotransmitters) and overall functionality. And like drugs, hunger can make us anxious, irritable, and unable to sleep. To help balance the brain’s serotonin – also known as the ‘happy chemical’ – a recovery diet should consist of complex carbohydrates, like those found in bread, pasta, starchy root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and yams, and legumes like peas, beans, lentils, and peanuts. These carbohydrates, combined with protein, will give your body what it needs to recover.
When you’re in recovery, you’ll need a diet that fulfills these nutritional needs, helping you replenish and strengthen your deprived body. Malnutrition, common among drug and alcohol users, physically weakens the body, damages the organs, and devastates the immune system. As a result, substance abusers are more susceptible to illness. Heavy alcohol consumption also depletes your body’s stores of B-complex, B, and C vitamins, along with minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
The bodies of regular or long-time substance users are in survival mode, drawing on stores of fat, nutrients, and energy. Good food not only helps to restore vitamin and mineral deficiencies, but it also increases BMI, allowing recovering addicts to put on the weight necessary to get strong and healthy. Plus, let’s face it—eating well and being (comfortably) full makes us feel better.
Health affects the body, mind, and soul. That’s why, when you’re in recovery, you need support that cares for every part of you. At Landmark Recovery, our goal is to do just that. Let us support you on your road to recovery; it all starts with a phone call, email, or filling out our contact form. Reach out today, and let’s talk about how we can help.