The Role of Drugs and Alcohol in Vitamin DeficienciesAnna Ciulla
Substance abuse is physiologically damaging in numerous ways, many of which are outwardly obvious. However, it also causes difficult-to-detect inner changes including the depletion of vitamins and minerals the body needs to function optimally. Those who abuse drugs and alcohol often feel tired and drained—beset by negative physical as well as emotional symptoms caused by a lack of proper nutrition. This process begins slowly, but worsens over time.
Although alcohol is loaded with calories, it offers absolutely no nutritional value for the body. Mixed drinks often contain added sugar which is toxic to the body. Sadly, many alcoholics’ total caloric intake is rooted in alcohol consumption. This creates a major imbalance in vital nutrients since the body is being consistently flooded by alcohol toxicity. Alcoholics routinely suffer from poor digestion which in turn impairs nutrient absorption and leads to deficiencies in vitamins A, B, C, D, and K. On the other hand, stimulants such as methamphetamine, cocaine, Adderall, and Ritalin suppress the appetite, causing habitual users to become underweight as well as malnourished.
There are many signs and symptoms of vitamin deficiencies caused by drug or alcohol-induced malnutrition. These include:
- Skin Symptoms – such as bruising and dry, itchy skin are common in alcohol and drug abuse and are caused by a lack of essential vitamins such as fatty acids and vitamin C.
- Alcohol and Drug Fatigue – is another common symptom of abuse and continues to worsen as the lack of nutritional vitamins such as C, B1, and B12 continue to be depleted by ongoing malnourishment. These deficiencies, in turn, can lead to hypothyroidism, anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, and cardiac failure.
- Muscular Pains and Cramping – alcoholics invariably experience deterioration in their body muscle mass due to the toxic effects of drinking, and the muscles cannot easily be repaired due to the resulting vitamin deficiencies. Muscle pains, soreness, cramps, and spasms are common byproducts. Opiate addiction—in particular—is notorious for creating muscular pains and cramping, especially during detox.
- Depression, Anxiety, Lack of Focus, and Irritability – are synonymous with alcoholism and the depression, anxiety, irritability cyclic effect alcoholism creates makes it almost impossible to quit without professional intervention. Opiate abuse also creates this vicious, self-destructive cycle due to deficiencies in Vitamins C, B, B3, B6, B12, folate, iron, magnesium, and fatty acids.
- Constipation and Diarrhea – is commonly observed in opiate and alcohol abuse disorders due impaired digestion, a condition which is worsened by nutritional deficiencies. While constipation is rampant amongst opiate users, diarrhea is linked to alcohol abuse. A vitamin B3 deficiency is responsible for diarrhea, whereas constipation is caused by deficiencies in folate, potassium, magnesium, fiber, and especially water.
- Neurological/Biological Vitamin Deficiency Symptoms – all begin in the brain due to poor nutrition caused by drug and alcohol use and can cause: restless legs, loss of balance, numbness, peripheral neuropathy, and muscle spasms.
NUTRITIONAL THERAPEUTIC REHAB
Recovering from alcohol and drug abuse requires vitamin, diet, and nutritional therapy and must become part of a strategic, multi-pronged recovery program. Ideally, nourishing the body with essential nutrients should begin before—or at the very least during—the recovery process. Engaging in such a program prior to entering detox can significantly lessen the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
During detox, which should always be done in a professional rehabilitation center, trained personnel will administer vitamins specifically needed to help support the process of cessation. The next part of the strategic recovery plan should include a nutritional program which includes all of the necessary foods needed to aid in the recovery and sobriety process, as well as a plan to supplement the nutritional program with additional multivitamins. This should include:
- Additional B-complex vitamins which are vital for the production of neurotransmitters and help aid in sleep, mood control, and boost energy levels.
- Additional vitamin D which helps to prevent mood disorders, depression, bone loss, and increases immune function.
- Omega-3 fatty acids which help to relieve anxiety, depression, anger issues, and fatty liver problems.
Recovering from vitamin deficiencies is as critical to your health as is your recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. Proper nutritional therapy can not only restore optimal physical and psychological function, but it can help you safely navigate the first stages of detox and rehabilitation.