HomeWellnessMental HealthHow Do Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Impact Food Insecurity?

How Do Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Impact Food Insecurity?

A recent Canadian study published the associations with food insecurity as it is related to poor mental health and substance use.

Many studies have been conducted on mental health and substance use and its effects. However, the investigations surrounding these topics with an associated focused on food insecurity is a new area of research. Food insecurity occurs when an individual is or worries that they may be, physically or economically incapable of consuming enough food. The researchers sought to determine the independent associations of lifetime substance use with the effects of mood disorder. Specifically, they looked into the combined effects of these diseases with the relationship of food insecurities.

This Canadian study, conducted in British Columbia, applied a statistical analysis to determine household food insecurity as an effect of mood disorders and/or lifetime substance use. The researchers used a 2007-2008 survey on community health measures of drug use, including marijuana, cocaine/crack, ecstasy, or other drugs, and current mental health diagnosis, and compared the results to current levels of food insecurity.

This study, recently published in PLOS included the surveys of 13,450 participants. The results indicated that there were significant associations between lifetime drug use, a recent mental health diagnosis, and food insecurity. The nature of the interactions between these three factors was, at times, unclear. The results indicated, for instance, that a lifetime history of drug use was, in fact, protective against the effects of mental illness and food insecurity. There are likely multiple pathways of association and the effect could also be modified by many external factors as well. For example, cannabis can increase a sense of hunger, whereas cocaine suppresses appetite. Levels of coping and resilience are also likely to have an effect on both drug use and mental health and may modify the reaction to food insecurity.

Based on the findings, the researchers believe that there needs to be far more research to determine coping and resilience regarding substance use, mental illness, and food insecurity. Without such research, the interventions necessary for developing strategies to maintain mental well-being will be inadequate. Interventions are needed for ensuring that food insecurity is eliminated from preventing further challenges with coping with mental health and resilience among those with and without a lifetime history of substance abuse.

Written by Dr. MòNique J. Grant Coke, DNP, MPH, BSN, Medical Writer

Reference: Davison KM, Holloway C, Gondara L, Hatcher AS (2018). Independent associations and effect modification between lifetime substance use and recent mood disorder diagnosis with household food insecurity. PLoS ONE 13(1): e0191072. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0191072

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