Sugar and Caffeine in Recovery

How Sugar and Caffeine Affect Recovery

In “The Family Afterward”, a chapter in “The Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous there is mention of chocolate, candy, and sweets, according to a doctor. “One of the many doctors who had the opportunity of reading this book in manuscript form told us that the use of sweets was often helpful, of course depending upon a doctor’s advice.” Addicts and alcoholics in recovery are known for having a sweet tooth.

There is a science, or at least the opinion of a doctor, behind why most AA meetings include doughnuts, cookies, coffee, and other treats. Cigarette smoking and energy drinks are common as well. The authors continue, “He thought all alcoholics should constantly have chocolate available for its quick energy value at times of fatigue.

He added that occasionally in the night a vague craving arose which would be satisfied by candy. Many of us have noticed a tendency to eat sweets and have found this practice to be beneficial.”

For alcoholics, the science is simple. Alcohol is mostly sugar. When the body becomes chemically dependent on alcohol it is essentially becoming chemically dependent on sugar. Once the alcohol is taken away the sugar is taken away. It is common to crave sugar, sweets, and treats in early recovery as the body processes its withdrawal from alcohol. Indulging in the craving for a candy bar or a few sweet treats is considerably less harmful than indulging in alcohol.

As for addicts, on the other hand, the craving for caffeine in energy drinks, coffee, or the buzz from cigarettes often accompanies a craving for sugar. Both drugs and alcohol stimulate the brain in the production of dopamine. Addicts get “high” however and many addicts abuse stimulant drugs. The buzz from sweets and caffeine helps them suppress their cravings as well.

Nutritionally, sugar and caffeine aren’t healthy in large quantities. Nutrition should focus on balance. A complete abstinence from any and all sugar or caffeine isn’t necessary. Sometimes the body needs a little unhealthy to support the healthy.

Short term indulgences in sugar and caffeine is understandable. However, because it is an addictive mind, the use of caffeine and sugar in early recovery can present some problems, which is why the dietary plan of many residential treatment programs doesn’t include regular offerings of sweets, treats, or even caffeinated coffee. Despite grumbling and mumbling most clients adjust and make it without caffeine and sugar.

It is Easy To Create an Addiction Swap

The reason there is hesitancy to encourage indulgences in caffeine and sugar is because both substances are addicting. People experience withdrawals when they stop eating their daily loads of sugar and when they give up coffee. Both caffeine and sugar produce stimulation in the brain and the production of dopamine.

It is easy to create an “addiction swap” in early recovery when people turn to energy drinks, candy, sugar, and coffee to cope with their feelings instead of being honest and vulnerable in their therapy sessions or throughout their treatment. In addition, the body isn’t meant to run on caffeine and sugar.

The peaks and valleys, spikes and crashes that sugar creates can be problematic to emotional stability in the early phases of recovery, which creates a higher risk for relapse as the stimulated brain turns toward its next cravings: drugs and alcohol.


Lakehouse Recovery Center offers residential treatment programs to men and women who are seeking recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Our beautiful home sits on the tranquil Lake Sherwood, offering a peaceful environment conducive toward healing. Providing residential detox, inpatient, intensive outpatient, and a twelve month after care, our goal is lifetime recovery. For information, call us today: 877.762.3707


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