Hydration, Health, and the Recovery Process

Couple thinking about treatmentRecovering from addiction is no small feat. Many who attempt it will have setbacks — sometimes repeatedly — before achieving lasting sobriety. Relapse occurs in 40 to 60 percent of all drug treatment cases, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Avoiding relapse is a complex task that involves several factors that must work together in unity — and good health is at the root of it all.

In 2012, only 1 percent of the people who needed help for a substance abuse problem got it, according to NIDA. Many will avoid seeking treatment at all due to underlying health problems that keep them longing for their next fix and dependent on their favored substance. They often cannot imagine life without substance abuse. Those who embark on trying to cut back or quit often enter the initial stages of withdrawal and are scared off from the entire process. The good news is that recovery is possible, regardless of one’s situation, but it often requires a broad spectrum of treatment that only a qualified facility can offer.


Going through the withdrawal process can easily render you dehydrated at a time when you need your energy and strength the most. The primary causes of dehydration during detox itself are excessive perspiration, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. All of these factors combined make for the prime situation for potential fluid loss in the detoxing addict when the individual isn’t feeling up to consuming enough fluids to make up for the lost fluids. When your body gets dehydrated, you can experience side effects ranging from headaches and dry mouth to serious issues, such as seizures. These symptoms are often confused with those of withdrawal, which leads many addicts back to substance abuse.

The body uses a considerable amount of energy and fluid trying to expel toxins left over from substance abuse through the urine. The regular turnover of fluids means the addict needs to start taking in more fluids than he is accustomed to, no matter how much he isn’t in the mood to do so during withdrawal.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Confused state
  • Dry, cracked lips
  • Dry skin
  • Puffy tongue
  • Dry mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Increased thirst
  • Low urine volumes
  • Fainting
  • Dark or very yellow urine
  • Lack of perspiration
  • Dizzy spells

Some facilities may track a client’s urine output and require intravenous fluids if they suspect dehydration during the detox period.

In Good Health

Most individuals experience health improvements during the recovery period. Often, health problems are what lead many addicts down the path of rehabilitation. Many people end up hooked on painkillers after taking them for chronic pain as prescribed by their physician. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, around 1.9 million of the substance abusers in America were abusing prescription opioid pain relievers as their drug of choice, with 20 percent of those who misused them in 2012 and 2013 having received them from a doctor. This isn’t surprising given the alarming number of prescriptions doled out for these meds every year. In 2012, it was 259 million, per the American Society of Addiction Medicine. If the cause of the initial pain incurred by the addict isn’t dealt with, she may be setting herself up for relapse after treatment when she can’t cope with the pain as it returns.

Nevertheless, poor health can seriously inhibit the recovery process and even make it more likely that the individual will relapse. This couldn’t be truer than when it comes to those who struggle with mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports 50 percent of individuals with severe mental illness are also troubled by substance abuse. Mental health disorders that are most common among drug and alcohol addicts include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder

Some addicts dove into drug abuse haphazardly merely to cope with emotional issues stemming from a poor upbringing, difficult living situation like a divorce or death in the family, or to escape a trauma from their past. While these cases may not qualify as instances of mental illness, they can most definitely benefit from therapy and support group participation.

Well-Rounded Treatment

treatmentStaying hydrated is easier said than done for many. A lot of individuals in recovery who end up dehydrated claim they’ve been consuming plenty of liquids, but “plenty” is relative, and the kind of fluids they’re drinking matters a great deal. Caffeinated beverages such as soda and coffee aren’t as hydrating as other fluid options. Sugary sports drinks aren’t the ideal go-to source of hydration and nutrition either. In fact, basic, plain and often free, water will get you farther in the hydration game than any other fluid. Those who aren’t big fans can opt for adding fresh fruit to their water or drinking carbonated, sparkling versions. Sipping throughout the day will put you on a much better path than trying to down a bunch of water at one time. Likewise, make sure you’re accounting for extra fluids if you’re exercising regularly, too. Proper hydration makes the detox process far easier on your kidneys.

So how much water should you be drinking? Typically you should consume around 0.5-1 ounce per pound that you weigh every day, per WebMD, and more if you’re sweating a lot — either from withdrawal or working out. Fluids can also be consumed in the form of soups, broths, fruits, and more. Individuals who have been abusing drugs or alcohol for quite a long time, and those who were dependent on certain substances — such as stimulants — are more prone to dehydration that others. Keeping your body fully hydrated will help to stave off cravings, maintain emotional stability, and more.

A regular exercise regimen not only aids in keeping your body in tip-top shape, but it can improve your mood and better your chances at making addiction a thing of the past. In one study reported by the Chicago Tribune, cravings and the urge to use marijuana were decreased by over 50 percent in 12 heavy users of the drug. Practices like yoga and meditation, along with other spiritual mechanics, are often utilized in addiction treatment based on impressive research that backs their efficacy.

Exercise is only half the battle though; a proper diet that delivers adequate nutrition is vital, and it isn’t uncommon that adults have no idea what that kind of diet entails. During comprehensive treatment, you will learn how to feed your body and fuel it for optimal performance.

A full course of treatment doesn’t just focus on the addiction and detox. There are many pieces that fit into the grand scheme of substance abuse treatment, including exercise, diet and nutrition, mental wellness, and more. Call us today to learn more.

Medical Disclaimer: Orlando Recovery Center aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.