Destruction at the Molecular Level
As we’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, when we’re out running amok and drinking or drugging, most of us aren’t getting proper nutrition. A lot of that comes down to neglecting our daily responsibilities. We’re often too loaded to remember to eat or just don’t have the stomach for it. However, the nutritional problems caused by substance abuse are not limited to forgetting meals. Over time, substance abuse changes the body at a chemical level. It can cause cravings for unhealthy food, interfere with the absorption of nutrients, and change a person’s relationship to food altogether. Here are some common nutritional issues associated with substance abuse.
Opiates and Sugar
With the country in the midst of an opioid crisis, it seems natural that we should start here. According to a study published by IJPH, metabolic problems are not a common issue among those who abuse opiates. However, as the abuse or addiction progresses, those problems start to become prevalent. The study found that fasting insulin levels were four times higher in heroin addicts than in control subjects. Furthermore, a study in the Journal of Opioid Management states that chronic opioid exposure is associated with increased consumption of sugar. On top of that, the sugar problem gets worse when addicts attempt to quit the drug. The same study reports that sugar accounted for 31% of the calories consumed by female methadone users. To put it all in simpler terms, opiates interfere with the way the body process sugar. Those who abuse opiates respond by eating even more sugar.
As Empty as a Bottle
The relationship between alcohol abuse and nutrition is even more severe. Unlike opiates, alcohol actually has a caloric value. There are over 1000 calories in a pint of vodka. However, there are no vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients in that same pint. As alcohol becomes the primary source of calories, a person starts to develop nutritional deficiencies. To compound the problem, alcohol hinders the absorption of essential nutrients. For example, vitamin A deficiencies are common in alcoholics. According to a study published by the NIAAA, this is because alcohol enhances the activity of enzymes in the liver that break down vitamin A. Other deficiencies associated with alcoholism include vitamins C, E, and a number of B’s, including thiamine, as well as essential amino acids and minerals such as calcium and iron.
Running in the Red
The image of the emaciated meth addict is probably the first thing that springs to mind when people talk about substance abuse and nutrition. Methamphetamine is such a powerful appetite suppressant that physicians prescribed it as a diet pill as late as the 1960s. Because of this, meth users often forgo eating completely while on a run. Additionally, they often get little to no sleep, which increases the body’s caloric demands which it will start to satisfy through stored fat and muscles. Plainly speaking, the body needs even more energy while getting zero fuel so it starts eating itself. Finally, eating while on meth often “kills the buzz” and makes users tired, so meth addicts often avoid food to the extent that they change their relationship with it completely.
Healing from the Inside Out
If there is any good news to these facts about substance abuse and nutrition, it’s that none of these issues need to be permanent. However, the task of re-nourishing your body can often be a little tricky. Some treatment centers, Ocean Recovery included, have registered dieticians on staff to help determine what deficiencies may exist, as well as the best course of action to correct these problems. If you are suffering from drug or alcohol abuse, consider seeking professional help. Out admissions specialists are ready to assist you today.