A first-of-its kind study that examines the link between a plant-based diet and addiction recovery will launch in November at Infinite Recovery, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Austin, TX . The study will be led by a team of experts and funded by the non-profit Plant-Based for Positive Change (PBPC). During the year-long study, approximately 100 male and female patients over the age of 18 will be divided into a control group (consuming the standard diet offered at the treatment center) and a plant-based, whole-foods group who will also be provided 60-minute wellness and nutrition education once per week. Researchers will monitor patients through their various stages of recovery using mental and physical health markers to determine recovery resilience.

At age 30, PBPC founder Adam Sud was addicted to drugs and fast food and, after a drug overdose during a suicide attempt, Sud checked into a rehabilitation facility where he was diagnosed with a host of illnesses and treated with prescription medication. While in recovery, Sud adopted a plant-based diet after learning about its benefits from several advocates. “As I was going through recovery and adopting a plant-based diet, I was able to not only achieve sobriety but also reverse heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and come off of all my psychiatric medication within one year,” Sud told VegNews. “It allowed me the opportunity to create an environment for positive change through daily acts of self-care that helped me build a foundation of self-love focusing more on what mattered to me rather than what was the matter with me.” In order to better understand the impact of the plant-based diet on recovery from a scientific perspective, Sud recruited a team to launch the study.

“I foresee this study making a huge impact in the way that we view addiction recovery in general,” Sud said. “A lot of times food is used as a coping mechanism to deal with the stress of no longer using. Most of the time those food choices are destructive to overall health. What I am hoping that this study will show is that nutrition actually plays a huge role in the mediating factors of recovery: depression, anxiety, self-compassion, and resiliency. Those are the factors for which a foundation for recovery can be built upon.”

Until now, rehabilitation centers have not focused on diet as part of recovery, instead prioritizing the removal of substances such as drugs and alcohol from a person’s system without addressing the underlying components that lead patients to substance abuse. “Not only has a study never explored the potential association between nutrition and resilience in recovery, but no study has ever used a plant-based diet,” Sud said, “which we anticipate will promote enhanced physical and mental health outcomes due to its high nutrient-density.”

Along with publishing their findings in scientific journals, the research team aim to use their findings to establish guidelines and recommendations for treating addiction recovery from a standpoint that emphasizes diet and other health factors. “We have been treating addiction from a dependency model without really looking at how to do the real inner work that creates long-term recovery,” Sud said. “My problem has never been drugs. Drugs were my solution to not knowing how to live with myself and love myself.”