Medications and Foods to Avoid as a Recovering Alcoholic or Addict

Recovery is a lifelong process that is met with constant challenges. Whether you are facing the everyday stress of life or are spending time around friends who still drink alcohol, it can be tempting to slip backward. One of the major challenges faced by alcoholics in recovery is avoiding medications and food that may interfere with your recovery. As a result, it’s important to know which medications and foods recovering alcoholics should avoid.

Did you know that certain foods cause reactions within the body that lead to depression and even anxiety? Furthermore, even if your doctor prescribes you medication for a legitimate reason, chemical reactions can trigger a relapse. Cultivating a firm foundation for recovery includes understanding what foods and medications could potentially lead to relapse

Here are some medications and foods recovering alcoholics should avoid, especially in early sobriety.

Prescription Medications

When you are in recovery from alcoholism, your treatment goal should always include staying healthy and avoiding relapse. Potent pain medications such as narcotics are often needed after surgery. Narcotics and psychoactive medications pose a high risk of prescription drug abuse and relapse for recovering alcoholics. However, inadequate pain management is also associated with a high risk of relapse. In special cases where an individual in recovery is in dire need of strong pain medication, it is important that a loved one handles the medication to ensure the patient is taking the medication as directed. Furthermore, informing your physician of your history with substance abuse, allows them to provide you with nonpharmacologic treatments.

Studies show that managing pain for 5-17% of the U.S. population struggling with substance abuse disorder causes unique challenges for primary care doctors. Following the opioid epidemic and tighter restrictions on narcotic prescriptions, physicians face the challenges of distinguishing between someone who is in need of pain relief or struggling with addiction. Understanding the risks of prescription medications, transparency with your physician, and open communication with your sober support will help protect your sobriety,

Over the Counter Medications

Many medications sold over the counter are safe, but some of them may contain alcohol, sedatives, or mood/mind-altering components. For example, many cough syrups contain alcohol. Also, some decongestant medications contain dextromethorphan, which is a weak narcotic agonist. It is vital that you know what OTC medications you should avoid in recovery.

Misinformation regarding OTC medications has lead to many relapses. Many over the counter medications contain chemical ingredients that mimic the effects of alcohol and addictive drugs. Therefore, your brain may not be able to distinguish the difference between these chemicals and the substances you previously abused which can cause intense cravings. Although OTC medications are safe for the general population, they can be potentially harmful to individuals in recovery. Alcoholics in recovery tend to be extra sensitive to mood-altering drugs, especially in early sobriety.

Sugary Foods

One of the most important foods recovering alcoholics can avoid is sugary foods. Recovering alcoholics often crave sugar because it provides temporary relief from low blood sugar. During drug and alcohol detox, the blood sugar levels of recovering individuals drop, and they will begin craving sugary foods and drinks to fill that void. Consuming refined sugar worsens matters because it creates an instant spike and crash as well as exacerbates mood swings. Much like any other addictive substance, sugar affects the pathways within the brain which in time can cause dependence and sugar addiction. The crash from sugar often leads to a slight depression which is dangerous during the recovery process.

Caffeine Overload

It’s no secret that 12-step fellowship meetings keep the bold coffee flowing. In fact, coffee – more specifically caffeine – is known to also cause spikes in the body’s sugar levels. Due to the symptoms of alcohol detox, many recovering addicts are looking to fill the void of low blood sugar levels. The sometimes euphoric rush from an influx of caffeine stands in the gap of alcohol, without the aftermath of a brutal hangover from alcohol. In order to maintain overall health and avoid potential cravings, it’s important that you regulate your caffeine intake, especially in early recovery.

Preservatives and Additives

Although preservatives and additives don’t fall into a specific food group, these components are found in a variety of foods that recovering alcoholics should avoid. Preservatives and additives are known to create intestinal changes that permit oversized molecules into the bloodstream. Furthermore, the liver, which is most likely damaged from alcohol abuse, is overworked and the immune system is disrupted making it more difficult to combat illness. Fresh, raw foods are packed with natural enzymes that not only help the liver to recover but also boost overall immunity. Considering the potential damages caused by alcoholism, alcoholics in recovery should try to avoid foods containing preservatives and additives.

What Medications and Foods to Avoid as a Recovering Alcoholic

When it comes to detoxing from alcohol and early recovery from alcoholism, it is important to remember that alcohol has a direct connection to your body’s ability to metabolize certain nutrients. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial for you to begin feeding your body with the nutrients it needs in order to heal properly. Furthermore, you want to do everything you can to support and maintain long-term sobriety. The first step is to educate yourself and become aware of the specific medications and foods that recovering alcoholics should avoid.

A well-balanced diet and paying attention to any medications you take are part of cultivating a firm foundation for your recovery. If you are choosing a treatment program to assist in your alcohol detox and recovery, it is important to look for a program that includes nutritional assistance, medication education, and behavioral change as part of the program – mind, body, and soul!

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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