Recovery Why Are Sugar Cravings Common in Addiction Recovery?

Therefore, it’s common for someone in early addiction recovery to crave sweets and other sugary foods to try and produce the large amounts of dopamine they need to feel good. If an alcoholic gives in to their sugar cravings, it can lead to a relapse. The sugar high from eating sweets can be similar to the feeling that alcohol gives, and this can be dangerous for someone in recovery. Sugar affects the brain’s neural pathways, and weight gain affects the individual’s self-esteem and poses a risk to an alcohol relapse. As such, individuals in recovery from alcohol should prioritize their nutrition and pay attention to their sugar intake.

Sugary foods can help those in recovery because they affect the brain like addictive drugs. During the early days of addiction recovery, people often battle intense drug cravings and may be calorically deficient. The preference for sugary foods extends beyond effects specific to drug use. Sugar affects the brain like addictive drugs⁴, which makes sugar particularly tempting for people with a substance use disorder. I see many people quit the booze, but then pick up another addition- sugar, cigarettes, caffeine, social media, sex, shopping, gambling, codependent relationships. We may find relief in these other behaviors because they are triggering the same reward center of the brain.

Sugar Serves as a Transfer Addiction

It took a few days to come out of the fog, but my energy level and ability to focus have increased considerably. Glutamine, an amino acid, may also help stop sugar cravings in some people (for others it may have no effect). Certain amino acids and formulas can help you rebalance brain chemistry and normalize dopamine and serotonin production, but please use caution and work with a professional who can help you with this.

  • That’s why alcohol withdrawal and sugar cravings happen frequently.
  • In these first few days, you may also be at risk for more adverse and serious side effects of alcohol withdrawal.
  • First, alcohol has a high content of sugar in it, which is why your brain makes the assumption that any sugar product could create the same type of euphoric feeling that alcohol did.
  • When a person uses alcohol, the brain’s pleasure center is triggered.
  • Don’t go longer than four hours during the day without eating.

Sweet likers who use sugar to cope in early recovery may experience increased risk of alcohol craving either directly or through sugar consumption and/or craving. These sequelae could lead to uptake of other maladaptive and rewarding behaviors that engender distress and poor why do alcoholics crave sugar health, thereby increasing long-term risk of relapse in a cyclical fashion. Such findings underscore a critical need for further research to examine whether and/or how sugar consumption may impact the continuum of addictive behaviors among sweet likers with AUD in recovery.


Explore membership at Tempest  — and get ready to live an alcohol-free life you love. What doesn’t heal is beating the crap out of yourself or linking morality to your food choices. If you’re worried you’re going to relapse or if you’ve already relapsed, remember that it doesn’t mean you’ve failed at recovery. As your tolerance increased, your cravings and need for alcohol to function normally also increased. Over time, alcohol can reduce your overall serotonin levels, causing you to search for another pick-me-up.

Do you crave sugar when you quit drinking?

The liver, the organ that processes any alcohol you drink, is in charge of releasing glycogen into your blood. Alcohol stops this from happening, causing your blood sugar to drop. That's why alcohol withdrawal and sugar cravings happen frequently.

Research has found that lack of sleep contributes to sugar cravings along with dozens of other side effects. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for almost every aspect of your life, and your recovery. As mentioned above, it can be tricky to keep sugar out of your diet. To stay healthy and prevent an addiction relapse, you need to maintain a healthy diet where you only occasionally indulge in sugar. First, you get more of a dopamine boost from foods that are high in sugar or fat. This is similar to the dopamine rush you’d feel when drinking alcohol.

Tips on How to Ease Cravings During Recovery

Fortunately, understanding why you’re craving sweets after quitting alcohol and finding ways to avoid sugar can help you maintain a healthy recovery. You’re not alone; it’s actually common for recovering alcoholics to crave sugar. Eating ice cream or a donut every once in a while is okay, but there may be cause for concern if you’re constantly snacking.

do recovering alcoholics crave sugar

This is often the case when the addiction is fueled by an underlying mental issue to begin with such as PTSD. Indeed, it has been shown that sugar interacts with many of the same neural pathways in your brain as alcohol. Contact us today to find out which program might be right for you, or to begin the process of arranging for treatment. In some ways, this digested sugar acts similarly to sugar in the human body. When the body is used to a lot of sugar and stops getting it abruptly, it looks for ways to replenish it.


When someone quits drinking alcohol (chronic use), the body will search for dopamine in other ways. Addictions are physically and mentally consuming and I recommend working with different behavioral health practitioners to get to the root of your individual addiction patterns. That is the most important step towards getting healthy and addressing any mental health issues. Fine tuning your eating habits and lowering your sugar intake is secondary.

do recovering alcoholics crave sugar

In the study 61 percent of individuals with a positive family history of alcoholism preferred sugar solutions. This is extremely high compared to the 19 percent of individuals who preferred sugar solutions and who reported no known negative family or genetic histories of alcoholism. There are other naturally-occurring sweeteners such as monk fruit extract and sugar alcohols like erythritol. The takeaway is that doing some research on sugar replacements to determine which one is right for you is well worth the effort. Before I made the switch, I was consuming so much table sugar that I had become sluggish and had trouble concentrating.

While there are many theories as to why this happens, one of the most commonly accepted is that sugar plays a role in alcoholism. High-calorie, high-sugar, low-nutrient foods are frequently a go-to in early recovery, and are frequently served at some rehabilitation centers and mutual-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The mindset some have in early recovery is “as long as I’m not drinking…”.

  • In this article, we’re going to go through the causes for your sugar cravings.
  • Many heavy drinkers are hypoglycemic, or have low blood sugar, which can cause them to crave sweets.
  • Beers and wines often contain a moderate amount of carbohydrates.
  • You’re no longer reaching for a glass of wine but you’re emptying bags of sweets and munching your way through boxes of glazed donuts.
  • But by understanding the cause, you’ll be better equipped to handle it and move forward.

In addition, the appetite suppressing properties of stimulants make eating nutritious foods less likely. Some people in recovery use high sugar foods as a survival strategy to get sufficient calories when other foods are unpalatable. Why are sugar cravings so common in people recovering from a substance use disorder? It is not uncommon for individuals who have a history of substance abuse to not take care of their physical health.

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