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Incorporating Wellness Activities into Treatment


Research indicates that nutritional counseling and education can be an important part of recovery for individuals who are receiving treatment for a substance use disorder. Substance use or misuse can cause nutritional deficiencies and imbalances, affect appetite and mood, and impact the digestive system. Studies have found that providing nutrition education improves outcomes for those receiving substance use disorder treatment, especially when provided in a group setting.

Several nutrition and diet resources may benefit individuals with substance use disorders. In particular, some individuals in rural substance use disorder treatment programs may be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides financial assistance that facilitates access to food. Program planners may also choose to provide information about SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed), a program that encourages SNAP beneficiaries to make healthy food choices. Rural program planners who are interested in providing nutrition-related information to patients may also benefit from educational resources such as Food Education for People with Serious Psychiatric Disabilities: An Evidence-Based Recovery Curriculum. This resource provides lesson plans and handouts that program planners can tailor to meet the specific needs of their population.

Weight Management and Physical Activity

As substance use and its comorbid conditions can lead to issues with excess weight, program planners may also be interested in providing information about physical activity and weight management. Studies indicate that physical exercise can also help increase the likelihood of abstaining from substance use and decrease depression symptoms among those in treatment for substance use disorders.

Complementary and Integrative Medicine

Some treatment programs for substance use disorders incorporate aspects of complementary medicine, which is defined as a “non-mainstream” medical practice that is used in addition to more conventional healthcare. Integrative medicine coordinates complementary and conventional treatments in an effort to address a health condition using a holistic approach. Complementary approaches to traditional substance use disorder treatments may include meditation, yoga, and tai chi because they are intended to impact both physical and psychological aspects of recovery. Research indicates that meditation may be a promising approach to support recovery. Additional research needs to be conducted to understand the types of meditation and yoga that are most helpful to people with different substance use disorders. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health provides additional information about current research on non-conventional approaches to medicine.