It is a reality that many individuals are cross-addicted to more than one substance or behavior. Most commonly, two or more addictive behaviors can include alcohol or drug abuse intertwined with an addiction to gambling, food, sex, gaming, or other compulsive behaviors such as picking skin, hoarding, or shopping.
A scientific relationship between morbid food addiction and drug or alcohol abuse is found in the rush of dopamine experienced when foods that are highly pleasurable are consumed (typically those that contain high amounts of sugar or fats). A neurobiological response of pleasure can then grow to eating excessive amounts of food and is very similar to the brain activity found in a cocaine addict.
Food Like a Drug
Like the alcoholic or addict, individuals suffering from food addiction can build up an increased tolerance to the pleasure received from eating fatty and sugary foods. They require more of these foods before they feel satisfied, leading to extreme weight gain and an inability to control their eating habits.
If you or a family member is experiencing both food addiction and drug or alcohol substance abuse, you are not alone, and help is available. Eating disorders can be treated in ways that are similar to other substance addictions. In the same way the brain feels rewarded when an alcoholic consumes alcohol, the obese individual experiences a ‘feel good rush’ when consuming foods.
Treatment Options for Food and Drug/Alcohol Addiction
To be clear, food addiction can be influenced by genetics, bad dietary choices, lack of physical activity, hormonal disorders, and some medications. But, when problem eating is linked to an inability to control one’s eating behavior with regard to the amounts and types of foods ingested, it may be diagnosed as an eating disorder. And with even greater clarity, when a person has a co-existing addiction to drugs or alcohol, the addictive behavior can shift its shape—crossing over into overeating in addition to inactivity and bad food choices. These three are powerful contributors to food addiction – addictive personality, inactivity, and bad food choices.
Once medical conditions have been ruled out as a factor in food addiction, the person must face not only their co-occurring mental health issues, they must also tackle overeating and substance abuse with a proven and effective treatment program with a specific modality that addresses cross-addictions.
This may include:
- Inpatient or outpatient drug or alcohol substance abuse
- Medication-assisted treatments to combat food addiction
- Nutritional education that includes nutrient-dense foods
- A calorie-restricted eating plan that meets medical guidelines
- 12-step support groups including Over-eaters Anonymous
- Continuing after care which includes behavioral counseling
- A support group of family, friends, and the recovering community
California Treatment Center for Cross Addictions
You will find Twelve Step programs to meet cross addictions, including food additions and substance abuse. These programs are a great way to sustain your sobriety and monitor your new eating habits. But, overeating in cases of food addiction are unique. Obese people feel stigmatized and may suffer from social withdrawal and/or depression. For these reasons, mental health counseling should be a part of a customized program that can reverse the brain’s feelings of reward that is felt when foods are eaten and reduce the feeling of immediate gratification that sweets or fatty foods can offer.
Substance use disorders have their foundation in the person’s “loss of control” and progresses to a state of risky behavior. As well, overeating for an individual is risky behavior that can have devastating medical and financial consequences. Together, they must be handled by a professional team with experience and compassion.
Rehab in Fresno, CA, First Steps Recovery
First Steps Recovery offers a solution for those looking to address drug or alcohol addictions. Our facility is conveniently located for access to those living in California. Nestled in the foothills below Yosemite National Park, First Steps offers a wide range of therapies for residents that are recovering from eating addictions and substance abuse. We believe in the healing of the soul, the mind, and the body as a complete process towards regaining freedom from addictive behaviors.