There are many health claims made by companies that are in the business of developing and selling vitamins and other health supplements. But can health supplements help with addiction?
In short: yes. However, identifying the right amount and combinations of vitamins varies from case to case. For that reason, getting professional medical advice is strongly advised.
Nonetheless, it’s worth taking the time to understand how substance addiction deprives individuals of the nutrition they need for good health, and also to examine some of the vitamins which can help addiction sufferers in their recovery.
How addiction leads to vitamin deficiency
There are 4 main ways that drug and alcohol abuse can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
1.The body struggles to absorb nutrients
Both drugs and alcohol stop the body from absorbing nutrients effectively. Even if you eat a healthy meal your body will struggle to process the nutrients from it. For example, alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to absorb and use important nutrients such as thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B12, folic acid, and zinc.
2.Some substances reduce appetite
Many (though not all) substances can lower your appetite. Individuals using meth, for example, tend to crave only sweet and sugary foods. This can lead to a lack of protein and other complex carbs which help provide the nutritional foundation for maintaining good health.
It should also be mentioned that people addicted to drink and drugs can simply forget to eat as they prioritise their habit.
3.Some substances increases appetite
While some substances reduce appetite, others increase it. Typically, marijuana users are generally drawn to high calorie, low nutrient food. Similarly, heroin users have cravings for sugary food.
4.Increase desire for empty calories
Many substance addictions lead to the consumption of empty calories. There are different reasons for this. One is that sufferers will find it difficult to prepare meals for themselves and consequently eat whatever’s convenient. This might include a variety of takeaways, fast food, sweets and savoury snacks, such as crisps.
All of the above factors result in a compound effect of nutritional deficiency.
Signs of nutritional deficiency
Over time vitamin depletion can lead to a variety of serious health problems. Ultimately, those dependent on alcohol and drugs are suffering from malnutrition. The symptoms may include:
- Kidney damage
- Heart problems
- Tooth decay
- Liver trouble
- Breathing difficulties
- Bleeding or swollen gums
- Digestive issues
- Brittle bones/bone loss
- Menstrual issues
- Dry skin
- Memory loss
These health problems can only be addressed with a gradual withdrawal from the problem substance, combined with the consumption of more nutrition-rich foods. So when we consider the question: can health supplements help with addiction? The keyword is ‘help’. While they are not a solution in their own right, supplementation does play a role in the detox process.
That’s why drug and alcohol recovery centres are a vital part of recovery. At Cassiobury Court, we take people through a guided process of withdrawal and recovery within a controlled environment.
In a residential setting, those addicted to drugs and alcohol can improve their nutritional intake at the same time as lowering their dependency. Over time residents can experience a greater sense of physical and mental wellbeing as the body and mind feel the benefit of good nutrition.
Vitamins that help with drug and alcohol recovery
Can health supplements help with addiction? Yes and here’s how…
While a healthy balanced diet is ordinarily enough to give people the nutrients they need, for those going through drug and alcohol recovery; it’s not always that easy. Hence, many alcohol and drug rehab and detox treatments involve the use of vitamins and supplements.
The benefit of such supplements is that when combined with good nutrition, it helps the body absorb nutrients that it would otherwise struggle to process due to the toxicity of the substances in their body.
While a daily multivitamin can help in some cases, there are particular nutrients that are worth looking at in closer details. Remember: supplements are best taken on the advice of professionals and should always be taken with food.
B-vitamins: B-vitamins may help reduce cravings during the early recovery process. They have a particular role to play in helping to improve brain function and energy levels. It’s also naturally available in a wide range of foods including meat, fish, eggs, whole grains, beans and pulses, and green leafy vegetables. It’s also considered one of the best vitamins for alcohol recovery.
Vitamin C: Helps form and maintain skin, bones and blood vessels. As well as helping you feel better, it can also add colour and glow to your skin. Vitamin C is naturally found in most fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin D: Helps maintain healthy teeth and bones, and is particularly effective when taken with Vitamin K. It also helps regulate the immune system, reduces inflammation and helps the whole body better digest nutrients in general. It can be found in many dairy products as well as fish, eggs and beef liver.
Omega 3: Another supplement that can help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Can be in foods like salmon and nuts and seeds, or taken in the form of many types of cod liver oil and krill oil supplements.
Magnesium: Magnesium helps maintain a healthy nervous system and has been cited by many as a useful supplement to aid sleep. Furthermore, it’s been known to decrease the intensity of particular drug dependencies such as: opiates, nicotine, amphetamine and ethanol among others.
Zinc: Alcohol, in particular, is known to deplete levels of zinc in the body. The result is an increased sense of anxiety. It can be found naturally in oysters, grass-fed beef, many different seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds) as well as mushrooms and spinach.
A health care practitioner may prescribe a variety of vitamins and minerals to help address a drug or alcohol vitamin deficiency
Can health supplements help with addiction?
As we explained earlier, health supplements can assist with drug and alcohol recovery. The use of vitamins and minerals for alcoholics and drug users can play a crucial role in the detoxification process. They help decrease the severity of withdrawal symptoms and accelerate progress towards improved health and wellbeing.
While it’s not a solution in its own right, it is one constituent part of a successful drug and alcohol rehab programme.