How Are Eating Disorders and Drug Abuse Connected?

How Are Eating Disorders and Drug Abuse Connected?Eating disorders and substance abuse are common co-occurring disorders among San Jose residents. “Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders,” a report by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), states that 50% of individuals suffering from eating disorders also abuse alcohol or drugs. The report states that 35% of alcohol or drug abusers also have eating disorders compared to 3% of the general population.

Why Do Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse Co-occur?

While eating disorders and substance abuse are linked, there is much speculation about the nature of the connection. The following are three theories to explain why eating disorders and substance abuse often co-occur:

  • One disorder increases an individual’s chances for developing the other disorder
  • Both disorders share risk factors that increase the individual’s chances for developing both disorders
  • A single cause results in both disorders developing simultaneously

An individual with an eating disorder may be more likely to use certain drugs to assist in weight loss. Drugs such as alcohol, laxatives, diuretics, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin can suppress appetite, increase metabolism and purge calories. Users may also turn to these drugs to self-medicate the negative psychological symptoms associated with eating disorders. On the other hand a San Jose resident with a substance abuse problem may develop an eating disorder after his or her appetite, mood or thought patterns are changed by drugs.

Shared Risk Factors of Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Shared risk factors may explain the co-occurrence of eating disorders and substance abuse. An individual’s risk for developing each disorder depends on a variety of factors including genetics, cultural influences, environment, brain chemistry and personality. The following are shared risk factors of eating disorders and substance abuse:

  • Brain chemistry
  • Family history
  • Low self-esteem
  • Times of transition or stress
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Impulsivity
  • A history of sexual or physical abuse
  • Unhealthy parental behaviors
  • Lack of parental involvement
  • Peer pressure
  • Social pressures
  • Susceptibility to advertising and media messages

These shared risks increase a San Jose resident’s chances of developing an eating disorder and a substance abuse problem.

Treatment for Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

In the past substance abuse was deemed the more serious of the two disorders and therefore treated first. Today both disorders are viewed as highly destructive and life-threatening, so the two are typically treated simultaneously as co-occurring disorders. While the two disorders share risk factors and characteristics, there are significant differences in recovery methods. Substance abuse treatment often focuses on control and abstinence, while eating disorder treatment focuses on letting go of obsessive control over the body and learning to consume food in a healthy way. Treatment can be difficult if not provided by an experienced team of professionals. Treatment for eating disorders and substance abuse often includes the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Close medical observation
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Counseling
  • Techniques for coping with stress and depression
  • Tools for avoiding relapse

In order for treatment to be successful San Jose residents must address the initial underlying issues that led to self-destructive behaviors.

Need Help Finding Treatment?

If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder and substance abuse problem, please call our toll-free number. We are available 24 hours a day to offer more information about eating disorders, substance abuse and treatment options. Don’t suffer alone; call us today.

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