A NUTRITIONAL APPROACH TO DRUG ADDICTION

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In our drug-oriented society, there is a pill available to solve any minor discomfort. If you have a headache, you can reach into your medicine cabinet and take some aspirin or acetaminophen to relieve the pain. If you are upset by work or marital problems, you can drown your sorrows in a stiff drink. If you have trouble sleeping, you can take a couple of tranquilizers. It's not surprising, therefore, that many adolescents and adults have drug problems.

Although perceptions of alcohol and cigarette use have dramatically changed due to publicized health reports, they are still two of the most accessible drugs. Most young people generally start with these and then later try the illegal drug marijuana. Many of these young drug users mistakenly believe that alcohol and marijuana are harmless. They also believe that they will never become dependent on drugs and that they can quit at any time. Unfortunately, many later turn to stronger drugs, including heroin (smack) and cocaine (coke). The new potent form of cocaine, popularly referred to as crack, has become a recent problem. It is less expensive than cocaine, easy to conceal and offers a quick "high." Newspaper reports have cited cases in which the use of this drug has even filtred down to the elementary school level.

Most people are aware that an overdose of cocaine kills; however, many do not realize that this poison kills in other ways. Recent studies show that angina, heart attack, coronary artery spasm and life-threatening damage to the heart muscle occur with the use of cocaine and heroin.

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Cocaine and heroin are not the only drugs with these deadly effects. All drugs weaken the immune system in one way or another. Studies have shown that marijuana use weakens the immune response by as much as 40 per cent by damaging and destroying our protective white blood cells (Harvard Medical School Letter, Volume 4, Number 5). Without a strong immune system, the body is vulnerable to degenerative disease and AIDS.

Prolonged drug use can lead to other problems. The body may build up a tolerance to the drug so that the user must keep increasing the dosage to experience the same pleasant effect and to prevent withdrawal symptoms. In order to maintain the desired effect, some users increase the dosage to the point that they nearly die or do die from overdose.

Drug addiction is marked by a decreased desire to work, extreme drowsiness, inattentiveness, frequent mood swings, restlessness and a loss of appetite. Those addicted to drugs typically want to be alone, lose their temper easily, experience crying spells, and have slow, slurred speech. The pupils of the eye also change.

An individual can be addicted to substances other than illegal drugs. Many are addicted to nicotine, caffeine, colas, alcohol, sugar and even certain foods. Although these addictions may not pose as great a health risk, withdrawal may still be painful and difficult. Those who use these substances may be more susceptible to illness and disease because these addictive substances deplete the body of needed nutrients.

Substances That Rob The Body Of Nutrients

An individual addicted to a drug will, experience withdrawal symptoms when deprived of the drug. Drug withdrawal symptoms include headache, insomnia, sensitivity to light and noise, diarrhea, hot and cold flashes, sweating, deep depression, irritability, irrational thinking and disorientation. To minimize withdrawal symptoms, withdrawal from any drug should be done slowly over a period of four weeks or longer under medical supervision.

Recommendations

Many drug users suffer from malnutrition. Because drugs rob the body of necessary nutrients, those addicted to drugs need higher amounts of supplements. High-protein drinks should be added to the diet. Heavily processed foods and all forms of sugar and junk food should be avoided. Siberian ginseng helps cocaine withdrawal.

Nutrients

Recommended reading: Prescription For Nutritional Healing by J & P Balch (sc) 384pp $22.95

Available at your local health food store or from alive books PO Box 80055 Burnaby BC V5H 3X1. Please add $3 for p&h and 7% GST when ordering from alive books.

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By Phyllis Balch

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