Why Those With Substance Use Disorders Gain Weight

By June 1, 2021Addiction
gaining weight

Gaining weight can be a side effect of early addiction treatment. During the beginning stage of substance addiction treatment, clients start to shed the toxins and the consequences of substances. During this time, their body is reawakening and feeling hunger. The result is often weight gain.

Many clients with substance use disorder (SUD) might benefit from gaining weight. Substances like methamphetamines, cocaine, alcohol, opioids, and heroin can cause weight loss. In cases like these, one of the treatment goals might be gaining weight. However, some can view weight gain as a negative aspect of the recovery process. When therapists work with their clients, they can help them understand the balance between healthy eating, addiction, and implementing healthy habits.

Gaining the Weight Lost During Substance Use

Whether a person lost weight because of a loss of appetite, forgetting to eat, or the body’s inability to absorb vitamins or minerals, they can begin to gain weight once they start substance addiction therapy. Some may gain a small amount of weight, but many will gain an excessive amount of weight, putting their health at risk because of obesity. For some, any amount of weight gained can cause distress, but in extreme weight gain, while going through the recovery process, the risk of relapse can increase.

Weight gain can increase a person’s risk of mental health disorders if they think being thin is important. If a client has an unhealthy weight gain, they can exhibit signs of depression or anxiety. The client may not know how to regulate their eating habits and incorporate healthy food into their diet. Nutrition therapy can explain how healthy eating habits can help in decreasing weight and healing the body. Teaching proper nutrition is essential for everyone in substance addiction treatment. Understanding the motivation behind a client’s eating habits is also crucial.

The Addiction Transfer Hypothesis

Everyone has a ritual or a habit they indulge in at some point during their day. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee in the morning, chocolate in the afternoon, or a substance in the evening. The rituals are a source of comfort or pleasure and provide a positive experience. Once a person ends addictive rituals like drinking or using a drug, there can be an empty spot in their day or a loss of feeling satisfied. Habits are hard to break. Some clients can resort to transferring one habit to another.

Clients can replace their substance with eating fatty, sweet, or other unhealthy foods. Often foods high in unhealthy fats, excessive amounts of caffeine or sugars can mimic the same brain cell activity as their substance of choice. Perhaps some increase their intake of these foods hoping they can feel pleasure or comfort before starting treatment. The replacement of substances with unhealthy foods is called addiction transference.

Behavioral Addiction Hypothesis

Those who support the Behavioral Addiction Theory believe genetics are the cause of addiction. Compulsive, reward-seeking traits found in those with SUD or an eating issue are unavoidable because a client can have a genetic predisposition to some form of addiction. While experts in the field are at odds with this theory, the idea of compulsive behaviors being the root cause for substance or food addiction is probable. Some research literature shows an increased risk of having a substance or food disorder if the other exists. Researchers who performed a study comparing the Addiction Transfer Hypothesis with Behavioral Addiction Theory found a slightly increased risk of food and substance addiction.

Comprehensive Treatment

When clients decide to discontinue their use of a substance, they can reduce harm to their mind and body by entering a detoxification (detox) center. A private, comfortable, medically supervised detox center can aid a person through the detoxification process and guide them to further addiction treatment. After the successful completion of detox, they may enter residential or outpatient treatment. Whether a person receives inpatient or outpatient care is determined by their individual needs. Centers that provide therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are often versed in providing traditional and holistic care.

Holistic Care

Holistic healing is essential to guiding a person from harmful habits to healthy habits. Through holistic care, a person can learn how to replace unhealthy habits with healthy routines while understanding the connection between genetics, addiction cravings, or compulsive behavior. Holistic therapies like yoga, meditation, or a form of spirituality can provide healthy outlets of expression. Nutrition counseling, including shopping for, preparing, and eating healthy foods, is a vital part of comprehensive addiction treatment.

As a part of holistic care, they can also experiment with medically or psychologically proven forms of comprehensive care. Exploring different forms of art, breathwork, or exercise introduces options of care for those with SUDs. Substance addiction treatment is an excellent time for a client to learn about and explore sound, healthy coping skills.

Weight gain might be a part of the recovery process for those malnourished by addiction. Holistic therapies can have a positive effect on a person’s recovery journey. A person’s mental or emotional response to weight gain is also significant. Some can experience depression or anxiety, which can lead to a substance use relapse. To aid in relapse prevention, holistic therapies like yoga, meditation, and nutrition classes are vital to a person’s well-being. Detox is the beginning of the recovery journey, where a client might begin to gain weight when introduced to healthy habits, like nutrition, restful sleep, and exercise. Alta Centers’ medically trained staff ensures privacy, safety, and comfort during the detoxification process. Therapists can also sit down with the client to determine a treatment plan that can help guide them to the care they require for a successful recovery. To learn more about Alta Centers services, call (888) 202-2583.

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