Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Animal and Nutritional Sciences

Committee Chair

Melissa Olfert

Committee Member

Deana Morrow

Committee Member

Nicholas Turiano


Substance use disorder (SUD) is a prevalent problem in the United States, with 19.7 million Americans aged 12 and older battling an SUD in 2017. Multiple factors influence the risk that someone will develop an SUD, including family history, childhood trauma, community factors, and poverty. West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation, and individuals in WV are at high risk of SUD due to the aforementioned risk factors. There are a variety of treatment options available to someone with an SUD. These include outpatient or inpatient treatment, detoxification, therapeutic communities, and collegiate recovery programs. Despite the variety of treatment, there are high rates of relapse, with 40 to 60% of individuals relapsing within 12 months. Relapse prevention is increasingly implemented in recovery programs in order to decrease these rates. Relapse prevention strategies include the building of coping methods and skill-building to sustain recovery. These strategies can include peer-to-peer counseling, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and other activities that aim to build a healthy recovery lifestyle. Nutrition is an important part of following a healthy lifestyle. Individuals in recovery often have nutrition-related disorders, such as malnutrition, poor mental health, and altered body composition. Incorporating nutrition programming into recovery has shown to improve recovery outcomes. Despite this, there is a lack of nutrition education, therapy, or emphasis in recovery programs. This study aimed to determine the role of nutrition in recovery programs throughout West Virginia through the perspectives of recovery program directors and individuals in recovery as well as determine what types of programming is prioritized in recovery. Two recovery programs, West Virginia University Collegiate Recovery Program (WVU CRP) and Morgantown Sober Living (MSL) participated in this study. Two program directors and 16 recovering individuals completed cognitive interviews/focus groups and surveys that gathered their perspectives on nutrition in recovery and what works in recovery. Thematic analysis using NVIVO 12 software generated 53 themes and 30 subthemes. Overall, WVU CRP directors and recovering individuals emphasized a holistic approach to recovery with a focus on wellness. MSL recovering individuals expressed a desire to achieve independence and normalcy. All participants cited the value of social support as being integral to maintaining recovery. The most support for nutrition in recovery came from WVU CRP directors. All recovering individuals noted its importance in recovery, but some expressed that it’s not a priority early on. All recovering individuals expressed desire to learn life-skills including budgeting and eating healthily in order to improve their chances of long-term recovery. This research can help to improve the quality and offerings of recovery programs by informing potential nutrition and life-skills interventions for recovering individuals. Future work can determine how to best deliver nutrition education early in recovery.