Healing the body in detox is a complex process that requires plenty of rest and adequate nutrition. Drugs and alcohol take a heavy toll on the body so it should be no surprise that physical and mental recovery both take time. While in drug and alcohol detox, you or your loved one may have specific dietary needs as a result of your substance abuse habits. A great detox program should address nutritional deficiencies and your body’s ongoing need for adequate vitamins, minerals, and water.

Malnutrition, Eating Disorders, and Poor Diet are All Hallmarks of Substance Abuse

Malnutrition, eating disorders, and poor diet often go hand-in-hand with substance abuse. In fact, many clients admitted into our detox center suffer from nutritional deficiencies that cause additional health problems. If left unaddressed, these nutritional problems could cause severe issues that will inhibit the recovery of an individual in detox. For that reason, our staff at Hill Country Detox provides a thorough assessment of each client’s nutritional status, get a detailed nutritional history, and prepare healthy, delicious meals that will meet each client’s unique dietary needs during drug and alcohol detox.

Here are some of the most common reasons clients enrolled in drug and alcohol detox programs suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

  • Drugs and alcohol are often substituted for food. Alcohol, in particular, is high in calories, so individuals who binge drink or abuse alcohol regularly typically end up replacing much of their daily calories with alcoholic beverages. Unfortunately, these calories provide no nutritional value and the alcohol actually inhibits the body’s ability to use the nutrients it does receive from other sources.1
  • Money is spent on drugs and alcohol instead of food. Many individuals who are addicted to drugs and alcohol will forego all other things in an effort to obtain more of the substance they’re on. This contributes to irregular eating habits and a poor diet that consists of cheap, unhealthy foods.
  • Certain drugs decrease appetite. Stimulant drugs like methamphetamines, cocaine, and stimulant prescriptions actually decrease the appetite and they are frequently abused for the weight loss benefits. On the contrary, other drugs such as marijuana increases the appetite, often leading to the over consumption of extremely fatty and sugary foods.2
  • Drugs keep the body from properly absorbing nutrients. Opiates like heroin, Oxycontin, and Percocet, severely slow down the gastrointestinal system, which disrupts the body’s ability to properly absorb any nutrients it receives.3
  • Alcohol depletes the body’s stores of essential nutrients. Excessive consumption of alcohol also depletes the body’s stores of essential vitamins, such as vitamin A, B, and C, which can cause other related health issues such as vision problems, infections, gastritis, anemia, neurologic problems, and scurvy.3,4,5,6

A lack of exercise, as well as changes in sleep patterns, also play a major role in the nutritional deficiencies of individuals who are admitted to a detox center as a result of substance abuse.

Additionally, an alarming 50 percent of individuals with an eating disorder are also abusing drugs and alcohol, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.7 Substance abuse can be both a cause and an effect of eating disorders (and vice versa) but this comorbid condition must be addressed equally and simultaneously during addiction treatment to prevent further decline of physical and mental health, as well as death and suicide.

The Impact of Proper Nutrition in Detox

While a lack of nutrition clearly has an extreme effect on the health and well-being of an addicted individual, proper nutrition can also have a powerful impact during drug and alcohol detox. Since nutrient deficiencies can prolong or interfere with alcohol and drug detox, it’s important that all clients at a detox center are thoroughly assessed for nutritional deficiencies and their nutritional histories are taken into consideration during treatment.

A regular diet full of essential nutrients like protein, B12, and fatty acids can help heal and restore the body to its former health before the substance abuse. While diets high in carbs and fats can actually increase cravings for drugs and alcohol, a healthy diet will reduce cravings during detox, making it easier for clients to resist relapse and focus on their recovery.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a high-quality alcohol and drug detox center should address clients’ nutritional deficiencies with the following strategies:8

  1. Encourage self-care and healthy eating habits by providing resources and education on foods that help and heal the body
  2. Help clients develop regular meal times with delicious, good-tasting foods that are healthy and full of essential nutrients
  3. Help clients avoid replacing their addiction with extreme amounts of sugar or caffeine
  4. Manage uncomfortable symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
  5. Address special dietary needs for those with food allergies, ulcers, etc.

In following these strategies, a detox center such as Hill Country Detox will be able to provide thorough and individualized drug and alcohol detox programs that address all physical aspects of addiction and aid in the healing and nourishment of the body. These practices also help stabilize mood, reduce stress, and maintain the proper management of medical conditions that are a direct result of the substance abuse.

Nutritional Services at Hill Country Detox

The Executive Chef at Hill Country Detox works with a third-party dietician to design meal plans for our patients that are delicious, easy to eat, and high in nutritional value. Our multidisciplinary treatment team will work together to ensure that your individual drug and alcohol detox program is meeting all of your personal dietary needs and addresses any medical concerns related to malnutrition or eating disorders, as applicable.

Our detox counselors also provide clients with essential information on how nutrition affects the body— especially a body that has been ravaged by addiction. In providing education, nutritious meals, and comprehensive analyses of each client’s nutritional status, our detox center staff continues to provide exceptional care throughout each individual’s detox program.


  1. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-3/220-231.htm
  2. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/120914p44.shtml
  3. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002149.htm
  4. https://patient.info/health/vitamin-a-deficiency-leaflet
  5. http://www.webmd.com/diet/vitamin-b12-deficiency-symptoms-causes#1
  6. https://patient.info/health/vitamin-c-deficiency-leaflet
  7. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/substance-abuse-and-eating-disorders
  8. https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA09-4331/SMA09-4331.pdf
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