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Nutrition and Opioid Use Disorder

Despite being the most extensively prescribed drug for pain management, opiates are the most addicting. According to the WHO approximately 500,000 deaths are attributed to drug usage and 70% of those deaths are related to opiates. Successful recovery from opioid use disorder is critical not only to the health of the affected individuals and their families but to public health as a whole.

Unfortunately, an opioid use disorder can bring with its multiple nutrition and health related consequences thus nutritional interventions are essential with this population. Their addiction has left many of them with multiple nutritional deficiencies and/or imbalances due to unhealthy eating behaviors, weight loss, constipation, disrupted sleep patterns, digestive issues, and metabolic changes. Healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables are often replaced with sweets and processed food leading quite often too unstable blood sugar levels in the blood and high levels of circulating insulin. Not only can this lead to hormonal imbalances but if there is not an adequate amount of nutritional intervention this environment can often lead to mood disorders and increased cravings.

Proper nutrition from food and supplements are essential for a successful recovery and should always be individualized. No two people are the same therefore their requirements will vary. Here at Destination Hope we focus on educating our clients on the importance of eating a healthy diet and maintaining appropriate blood sugar control. They are offered a high-protein, lower carbohydrate diet that provides the commonly deficient minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc.  Other nutrition goals for this population include increasing the amount of fiber rich foods, decreasing simple sugars and high fat foods, replacing them with more nutrient and antioxidant dense foods and by eating smaller more frequent meals to prevent complications associated with refeeding. Additionally, the importance of proper hydration is essential with this population as symptoms associated with dehydration and electrolyte imbalances are extremely common especially during the detox process.

Regrettably, those addicted to opioids are also at an increased risk of other diseases commonly associated with the use of needles and other unsafe behaviors.  HIV and the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), in particular, can result in additional health complications and increase the requirements for more anti-inflammatory and immune boosting nutrition support offered by our program.

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