Chemical dependancy and substance abuse is a way in which to alter consciousness. It is important to understand what is being altered and why, in order to identify alternative nutritional strategies. If we look at addiction as a self-medication strategy this suggests that the substance has been chosen as means to self-regulate painful emotional states. This can also apply to looking at addiction to self-regulate nutrient deficits, the goal is to be able to understand what the person is actually really self-medicating and the nutrients that may be missing. Most addictive substances cause an increased production of dopamine in the brain; the feelings of reward and pleasure. Yet, if it is over-stimulated this leads to depleted dopamine production and as a result lack, of pleasure in life.
Drugs and alcohol stimulate that release, therefore the brain starts to suppress the production, meaning that the pleasurable feeling starts to become numb. There is primary and secondary malnutrition factors that can go along with chemical dependancy and substance abuse. Primary malnutrition is to do with lack of food intake which may be as a result of lack of money to purchase food, lack of the basic essentials of life, emotional or psychological disorders.
Secondary malnutrition occurs because the chemical dependancy and substance abuse depress digestion and absorption of nutrients. Co-occurring disorders commonly occur such as PTSD, depression, and eating disorders for example and have a tendency to go hand in hand with alcohol and drug abuse as a form of self-medication. Alcohol consumption can lead to primary and secondary malnutrition. Nutrient deficits can actually lead to alcohol use and the ability to digest and absorb nutrients and fatty acids can become impaired as a result. Alcohol use inhibits fat absorption, omega fatty acids, vitamins A, E, and D, folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B1.
Alcohol addiction is also a physiological addiction to sugar as a person withdraws from alcohol use the alcohol has a tendency to be replaced with the intake of refined sugar and simple carbohydrates and increased coffee consumption, as a method for handling withdrawal.
Cannabis is often used to self-medicate symptoms of PTSD and chronic pain. Chronic smoking can lead to lung irritation. Vitamins and glandulars can support lung recovery as well as increased consumption of essential fatty acids can positively effect the endocanebanoid system in the brain.
Cocaine addiction also depletes dopamine in the brain and damages mucus membranes. Cocaine addiction decreases appetite which can lead to primary malnutrition and also depletes vitamin B6, B1, and vitamin C. Opiates impair digestive function. The prescription of opiates is to be able to manage pain, but unfortunately extended use can impair the bodies capacity to reduce pain. Those addicted to opiates or are on methadone are at increased risk for sugar intake leading to obesity, hypoglycaemia, and diabetes.
Tobacco smoking and or nicotine use is a form of self-medication as well. Nicotine is an antidepressant and when stopping smoking it often triggers depression and because nicotine also speeds up the metabolism, weight gain also follows. Smokers are known to have lower levels of B-complex, vitamin C, and the antioxidants beta-carotin and vitamin E. Even exposure to second hand smoke lowers nutrient levels. Deciding to quite smoking means that a plan needs to be put in place in advance in regards to diet, nutrients, and exercise to mediate the effects of the physical symptoms of withdrawal; low energy, depression, and regressed cognitive functioning during the withdrawal process. Improving diet, balancing blood sugar with high protein, carbohydrates, and fats and chlorine-rich foods such as eggs, liver and fish will help mediate withdrawal symptoms.
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