Drug Addiction and Diet: Is There a Connection?

  • By admin
  • May 7, 2018
  • Comments Off on Drug Addiction and Diet: Is There a Connection?

Approximately 24 million people in the United States seek treatment for drug or alcohol issues each year. This figure doesn’t include people who attempt to treat their condition on their own or with the help of loved ones. It’s difficult to identify triggers for addiction, but some people believe it involves a combination of environmental factors and genetics. There may also be a potential connection between dietary habits and drug addiction, which we’ll detail below.

Sugar Intake Mimics Addiction

Sugar consumption is often compared to drug addiction, but did you know that sugar intake may also have a relationship to other types of addiction? More research is needed, but some researchers believe that sugar is a gateway drug. This means that ingesting sugar may make you more likely to experiment with other addictive substances in the future, such as drugs or alcohol.

Even if sugar doesn’t cause addiction, it may trigger issues in people who already have addiction problems. Men and women with a recent history of addiction or abuse may also attempt to use sugar as a replacement for other substances. Some nurses discussed the sugar cravings of drug addicts on AllNurses.com, hypothesizing that sugar is a substitute for hard drugs because it ramps up dopamine production the same way drugs do. Dopamine is a chemical that creates a feeling of happiness or euphoria, and many drug users experience severe depression when they stop getting high. Ingesting large amounts of sugar helps recreate the pleasant feeling users originally experienced from drug use.

Poor Dietary Habits Exacerbate Mental Illness Symptoms

Failing to adhere to a healthy diet can make you tired, cranky, or anxious. If you have a mental health condition such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, you may notice these unwanted effects even more than someone who does not have one of these conditions. That’s because your brain is already working hard to stabilize your mood, so it needs plenty of nutrients to get the job done.

It’s good to know this, but you might be wondering how this relates to addiction. Well, people with mental illness often turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. If the symptoms of your mental health condition are exacerbated by a lack of healthy food, you may attempt to self-medicate until you feel better. This may result in an addiction that you could have potentially avoided if you had maintained good dietary habits.

A healthy diet typically involves foods that aren’t processed, fried, or heavily seasoned. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible, and get your protein from lean meats, eggs, or nut butters. Your condition may require additional nutrients, which is something your psychiatrist or primary care physician can help you determine.      

Carb-Heavy Foods Can Cause Fatigue

If you’re still tired after downing a cup of coffee, it might be time to change your dietary habits. Consuming too many carbs – or the wrong types – can make you feel sleepy, and you may worry about how you’ll finish your work or honor your social commitments. This may create an urge to try habit-forming stimulants, such as cocaine or prescription drugs for attention deficit disorder.

Carbs are found in pasta, baked goods, rice, and potatoes. If you notice fatigue after carb ingestion, try balancing your meal with fat or protein. Drizzle potatoes or rice with olive oil, or top a bowl of spaghetti with lean hamburger.   

There are other dietary-related causes of fatigue. You may feel weak or exhausted if you need more iron in your diet. A vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause these symptoms.

If you notice you’re often tired, talk to your doctor. He can potentially rule out sleep apnea and other medical conditions, as well as order blood tests to determine if you’re lacking any nutrients.

The food you eat affects your mood and the condition of your body, and it may also trigger an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Focus on consuming nutritious foods to help reduce your risk of triggering a new addiction or exacerbating an existing one.


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