RDNs in Addictions
Renée Hoffinger, MHSE, RDN Addictions Resource Professional (3/2016)
Where services are provided
RDNs specializing in addictions work in a variety of public and private sector inpatient, residential, outpatient, and transitional community aftercare settings. They are usually employed by the institution or organization but may work as an independent consultant or contractor.
Typical populations served
The population served and the drugs of abuse vary by setting and region – substance abuse affects people of all ages and backgrounds. The most frequently misused drug in the U.S. is alcohol but many other drugs (cocaine, heroin, prescription pain medications and other opiates, inhalants, etc.) are also abused, either singly or as multiple drug dependencies. Common comorbidities include liver disease, hepatitis, diabetes, pancreatitis, other psychiatric diagnoses, malnourishment, and nutrient deficiencies. Diet can support or sabotage recovery. Restoring nutritional status helps to optimize cognitive and emotional functioning so the patient can participate and benefit from the program of recovery. Healthy diet is also a cornerstone of relapse prevention.
Typical work and involvement with other professionals
The RDN’s duties include nutritional assessment, screening for disordered eating, group education, and may include supervising food service operations, in-service training for other staff, and treatment planning meetings. More and more programs are including hands-on nutrition education activities, such as cooking classes, which are in consonance with the philosophy of developing positive life skills to support recovery.
RDNs working in addictions usually collaborate as part of a treatment team with other addiction professionals: psychiatrists, psychologists, addiction therapists, social workers, nurses, nurse practitioners, occupational, vocational, and recreation therapists.
Recommended or required education and experience
There is currently no requirement or recognized training for an RDN working in the field. Coursework in drug education, behavior change, counseling methods, and cultural competency are all helpful additions to the dietetics foundation. Many of the other professionals we work with add the credential of CAP (Certified Addiction Professional) to their resume – this would be a great asset for an RDN in the field, as well.