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Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Having an eating disorder and substance abuse is known as having a co-occurring disorder. When there is a co-occurring disorder along with substance abuse it can make it much harder for someone trying to stay sober to actually recover. Usually someone with an eating disorder will have substance abuse tendencies and vice versa. The reason for this is because the substance abuse helps fuel the eating disorder or the eating disorder fuels the substance abuse.

“One half of individuals with an eating disorder regularly abuse alcohol or illicit drugs.” – The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) –

Here are some common substances that those people with an eating disorder regularly abuse.

Eating disorder and substance abuse: Diet Pills

Many people with eating disorders will abuse diet pills in the obsessive scheme to try and lose weight. Diet pills can be used either with a prescription or as over the counter medications. Diet pills are probably one of the least safe methods to achieve weight loss because they can put the human body through a serious beating that includes the toll on a person’s physical and mental health. It is very easy for someone with an eating disorder to have access to diet pills because they are sold everywhere and in great abundance too! Even children and teens have access to diet pills from the local grocery store, health store, pharmacy, and convenience stores. Diet pills fuel eating disorders such as anorexia.

Eating disorder and substance abuse: Diuretics

A diuretic is a kind of medication or substance that forces the body to excrete water. People with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia will most commonly use diuretics to help them lose weight. The truth about diuretics is they don’t actually cause weight loss. Diuretics just cause the body to not store as much water when eating and it causes the body to get rid of it which gives the impression a person is losing weight. Diuretics can be extremely dangerous for someone with an eating disorder and substance abuse because fluid is essential to survival. When someone abuses something like diuretics they are forcing their body to get rid of essential vitamins and fluid.

Eating disorder and substance abuse: Drugs and Alcohol

Eating disorders and substance abuse go hand in hand. Substance abuse is very common in people who eating disorders such anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeating. Many times someone with anorexia will abuse an illicit drug such as cocaine to help stave off hunger cravings and to burn more calories. The same goes for someone with bulimia or compulsive overeating.

Eating disorder and substance abuse: Laxatives

Laxatives are commonly used by people who have eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia. Laxatives are similar to diuretics but they cause the body to purge more than just fluid. Laxatives also give someone the false idea that they are losing weight when really they are losing essential vitamins, minerals and fluids not actual weight by using laxatives. Also laxatives are ineffective because the calories absorbed from food are absorbed almost immediately after eating and laxatives can’t purge the body of the food quick enough. Laxatives work by aggravating the lining in the small intestines and if laxatives are used for a long time the bowels can actually become totally unresponsive eventually.

Eating disorders and substance abuse are directly linked. Which came first the eating disorder or the substance abuse depends on the person. Regardless, eating disorders and substance abuse both have to be treated in order for anyone suffering from both disorders to become well again.

If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for substance abuse and an eating disorder please give us a call at 800-951-6135.


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