While over 21 million Americans struggle with substance abuse issues, many addiction recovery programs overlook how nutritional support can increase treatment safety and success.
That means that patients in drug and alcohol recovery face the risks of malnutrition, dramatic weight changes and eating disorders
According to Maria Schellenberger, a student in the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology Master of Science in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity program, patients in recovery often face very high risks for malnutrition, eating disorders and dramatic weight changes, among other challenges.
Schellenberger and her mentor, fellow USC alumnus and founder of Nutrition in Recovery David Wiss, recently wrote an article on the need for dietetic support during addiction recovery for the Behavioral Health Nutrition newsletter of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
In addition to the nutrient deficiencies faced by patients actively using drugs, the recovery process itself can present patients with other barriers to establishing a healthy diet, she noted.
Having a registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) available to create healthful meal plans as well as provide education and counseling would allow clients to gain skills they will use after rehab; however, there are currently only a few studies addressing nutrition guidance and the role it plays in substance abuse interventions, she added.
Early evidence suggests that treating either eating disorders or substance use disorders, instead of addressing both at the same time, often has poor outcomes due to the complex interactions between the two.