For most people with substance use disorder (SUD), rehab programs are only the beginning of their recovery journey. Good outcomes in drug and alcohol rehabilitation are often dependent on time. That is to say, the longer the treatment period, the better the odds of a positive outcome.1,2
In any case, the length of many rehab programs is often shorter than the minimum three-month recovery period recommended by National Institute on Drug Abuse.1,2 This means that the responsibility for achieving a full recovery often rests on the patients, many of whom may not yet be fully ready to maintain the gains they achieved in rehab.
This has led to plenty of interest in supplemental interventions that could be done by individuals recovering from SUD. While regular visits to doctors and therapists remain the cornerstone of long-term relapse prevention and recovery, these supplemental interventions and therapies may provide an affordable way to further improve the odds of a complete recovery.
Many drug and alcohol rehab programs in Dallas already encourage participants to eat healthier foods and a few even teach how to prepare wholesome meals. However, it’s only relatively recently that data from nutrition studies have made a compelling argument in favor of better diets as a supplemental intervention for SUD.
Can Better Nutrition Help SUD Recovery?
Supplemental interventions like exercise and meditation are extremely popular in SUD treatment circles, and several studies have been made that seem to confirm the effectiveness of both approaches for substance use disorder.3
But while exercise and, to a lesser extent, meditation, are often discussed together with diet, comparatively few studies on nutrition and SUD recovery have been made.
Now there is growing evidence to support the idea that better nutrition could help people with SUD and related mental health issues. A 2018 review of multiple nutrition and psychosocial interactions studies published in Health Education & Behavior suggests that nutrition therapy could positively influence mental health outcomes, possibly including for SUD.4
What is Nutrition Therapy?
Nutrition therapy is much more than just classes on preparing healthy meals. The ultimate goal of nutrition therapy is to help individuals consciously use food and diet as a way to help them get better results during recovery. While cooking classes certainly form one component of a nutrition therapy strategy, mindful eating and understanding how nutrition actually works is typically a core part of these types of intervention.4,5
How Nutrition Therapy May Benefit SUD Recovery
Here are some potential benefits nutrition therapy may have for people recovering from SUD.4,5
1.) Prevents Further Physical Harm
People with SUD often have poor eating habits that result in the gradual deterioration of their physical health. Additionally, people recovering from SUD often experience stress, which is often associated with bouts of binge eating. Focusing on better nutrition can help prevent one’s health from worsening further, which can be a factor in achieving a better overall quality of life.3,4,5
2.) May Help Body Image and Self-esteem Issues
The presence of self-esteem issues can predict long-term recovery success in people recovering from SUD.6 Body image issues are inextricably linked to self-esteem in most people. This means that in many cases, the poor nutrition that results from drug use or an improperly managed recovery process can ultimately impact their confidence and self-esteem.
By using nutrition therapy to supplement conventional interventions, recovering individuals can more easily maintain a healthy body. This may help them become less anxious and more confident, which, in turn, can positively influence their odds of a better recovery outcome.
3.) A Focus on Nutrition Can Provide Much-needed Structure
When it comes to SUD recovery, it’s important to keep individuals engaged in the recovery process so that they have adequate time to heal.1,2 It’s for this reason rehab programs try to keep participants as busy as possible, particularly during the critical first three months of recovery
Individuals who have completed rehab programs aren’t necessarily fully recovered yet.1,2 Outside of the program, they can no longer rely on others as much to provide the healthy routines that helped keep them engaged in their recovery. For this reason, recovering individuals need to develop healthy, productive habits that stave off boredom and help them maintain their earlier gains.
Being more invested in learning how to prepare and budget healthy meals can be a productive way to have more structure, keeping one busy and goal-oriented, which may potentially aid long-term recovery.4,5
Find Programs That Offer Nutrition Education
Nutrition training and therapy may provide a way to not only quickly boost physical and mental health during rehab but also improve long-term SUD recovery outcomes. While more studies may be needed to learn about the exact benefits, the recent reviews of the literature are encouraging and may benefit many who are struggling after rehab.
Dallas Drug Treatment Centers gives you access to North Texas programs that have a focus on personalized treatment and long-term care. If you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and are interested in SUD treatment programs that offer nutrition-based interventions, call +1(214) 935-2287.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 3). How long does drug addiction treatment usually last?.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, September). Principles of Effective Treatment.
- Wang, D., Wang, Y., Wang, Y., Li, R., & Zhou, C. (2014). Impact of physical exercise on substance use disorders: a meta-analysis. PloS one, 9(10), e110728. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0110728
- Farmer, N., Touchton-Leonard, K., & Ross, A. (2018). Psychosocial benefits of cooking interventions: a systematic review. Health Education & Behavior, 45(2), 167-180. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1090198117736352
- Wiss, D. A., Schellenberger, M., & Prelip, M. L. (2018). Registered dietitian nutritionists in substance use disorder treatment centers. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 118(12), 2217-2221. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2017.08.113
- Christo, G., & Sutton, S. (1994). Anxiety and self‐esteem as a function of abstinence time among recovering addicts attending Narcotics Anonymous. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 33(2), 198-200. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8260.1994.tb01111.x