The opioid crisis has reached epidemic proportions in the United States with rising overdose death rates. Identifying the underlying factors that contribute to addiction vulnerability may lead to more effective prevention strategies. Supply side environmental factors are amajor contributing component. Psychosocial factors such as stress, trauma, and adverse childhood experiences have been linked to emotional pain leading to self-medication. Genetic and epigenetic factors associated with brain reward pathways and impulsivity are known predictors of addiction vulnerability. This review attempts to present a biopsychosocial approach that connects various social and biological theories related to the addiction crisis. The emerging role of nutrition therapy with an emphasis on gastrointestinal health in the treatment of opioid use disorder is presented. The biopsychosocial model integrates concepts from several disciplines, emphasizing multicausality rather than a reductionist approach. Potential solutions at multiple levels are presented, considering individual as well as population health. This single cohesive framework is based on the interdependency of the entire system, identifying risk and protective factors that may influence substance-seeking behavior. Nutrition should be included as one facet of a multidisciplinary approach toward improved recovery outcomes. Cross-disciplinary collaborative efforts, new ideas, and fiscal resources will be critical to address the epidemic.

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David became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) in 2013 and founded Nutrition in Recovery, a group practice of RDNs specializing in the treatment of eating and substance use disorders. In 2017, David received the “Excellence in Practice” award at the national Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. The California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics awarded him the “Emerging Dietetic Leader Award” in 2020. He earned his PhD from UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health in the Community Health Sciences department (with a minor in Health Psychology) by investigating the links between adverse childhood experiences and various mental health outcomes among socially disadvantaged men. His treatment philosophy is based on a biopsychosocial model which incorporates an understanding of biological mechanisms, psychological underpinnings, and contextual factors that integrate the social determinants of health. His website Wise Mind Nutrition offers a fully online interactive treatment program that will be available in the Summer of 2022.

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