Addiction And Nutrition: The Bigger Picture

Last Updated: September 3, 2020

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The below is a guest post by Joseph Kertis from As you know I have suffered from addiction in the past and it is a topic in which I am familiar with. I truly believe that through fitness and health that people can combat this disease. If you want to learn more about Joseph and what he does at his website, the link is in the bio at the bottom of the page.


Since America’s drug epidemic began in the early 2000s, we’ve collectively become more aware of addiction. Opioids, in particular, have received substantial headlines, enough that our nation’s drug problem has been described as an opioid epidemic in certain areas.

But regardless of semantics, addiction is on the rise and has been for a while. New medications, more treatment centers, and better financing haven’t managed to stop what seems to be an inevitable degradation of American culture. A keynote in substance abuse treatment’s development has been an increasing complexity.

We continually overlook rudimentary interventions as ways to combat and treat addiction. Vital factors like nutrition and exercise are often written over into a category known as “holistic” treatment approaches, which sound pseudo-scientific and foolishly idealistic at best.

These types of programs get an even harder rap when it comes to licensing and certifying boards because they may not align with the “industry standard,” which, of course, assumes that drug addiction must be treated with even more chemicals.

Addiction And Nutrition

Perhaps the most basic form of rehabilitation comes in the form of nutrition. According to the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, foods, vitamins, and minerals can all be used to help someone overcome addiction, and this is not limited to one application. 

Since there are so many different drugs, and we all have unique bodies, there’s no one answer to how drugs affect a person. But a common theme in addiction is malnutrition. The chronic consumption of chemicals almost uniformly reduces health.

Many drugs depress appetite, but what may be worse is the shift in priorities dictated by the brain’s reward center. The grip of addiction often draws the person to prioritize the consumption of chemicals over food. 

The person struggling with substance abuse may spend their last dollar on heroin before buying a sandwich. But drugs also have specific interactions with our own chemistry, which affect nutritional health. 

Alcohol, for example, rapidly depletes a person’s Thiamine levels, also known as vitamin B1. Much of the horrors of alcohol withdrawal, including Delirium Tremens, are caused by Thiamine deficiency. Long term thiamine deficiency causes alcoholic brain disease. A new phenomenon is being observed concerning opioid addiction, as more and more medical professionals are diagnosing opioid-induced androgen deficiency.

This hormonal imbalance results in lowered testosterone levels and symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, and sexual dysfunction in men. Not much is known about how this condition relates to nutrition. 

When a person is malnourished and chronically unhealthy, they respond poorly to just about everything. This is especially true for treatment, where malnourished patients are less likely to engage and show poorer results. 

In reality, an entire rehabilitation program could be developed around nutrition, which could be used to rapidly rebuild the person’s health and mitigate and treat symptoms of withdrawal and speed up detox. 

For example, Calcium, magnesium, and many vitamins provide superior relief in high doses to many pharmaceuticals and don’t protract the process by “tapering” the person down. 

The reason why they work so well is they are targeted to handle the specific deficiencies that are being treated. Muscular cramping is frequently a result of calcium and potassium deficiency. Nerve pain and spasm can be minimized with magnesium in high doses.  

Another overlooked factor is how nutritional deficiencies may contribute to substance use disorder in the first place. If a person’s diet is poor for much of childhood or many years thereafter, they can struggle with anything from fatigue to depression, obesity, and physical health problems. Because the person may not directly attribute these issues to their diet, it can easily lead to them looking for solutions in the form of chemical relief. 


Many addictions begin out of personal unhappiness or a void that the person is treating with drugs. Meth addiction is not a giant leap for someone who is already unhappy with their weight and taking diet pills. Proper nutrition can make someone less susceptible to addiction.  

It’s time to simplify substance abuse treatment. If people feel ill, they’re going to want to change that. If we do not educate them about nutrition, it is a huge disservice and may prevent them from truly getting better.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse you can find helpful information on Drug Rehab Services. For more tips on a more wholesome lifestyle, check out Ultimate Primate’s Healthy Living section and various other parts of the blog depending on what you’re interested in. The owner is a Marathon runner, so there’s heaps of running tips available

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