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Drug & Alcohol Abuse

One half of individuals with an eating disorder regularly abuse alcohol or illicit drugs.

Drug & Alcohol Abuse: A Dangerous Relationship

Substance abuse and eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating often go hand-in-hand. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that one half of individuals who suffer from an eating disorder regularly abuse alcohol or illicit drugs. This compares to nine percent for the general population.

Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse: A Vicious Cycle

There are many theories that explain the connection between eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating and substance abuse. These theories include looking at eating disorders as an addiction, genetic components, cultural influences, social theories, family dynamics and the role of brain chemistry. The association most likely is a result of a combination of the above. Many eating disordered individuals do use certain substances in an attempt to suppress hunger and lose weight. Alcohol and/or drugs are also used by eating disordered individuals to help relieve the painful feelings associated with practicing an eating disorder.

Although the practice of an eating disorder and the use of substances may start off as self-protective behavior, they quickly turn into self-destructive behavior. The coping mechanisms of purging, bingeing, restricting, drinking, and drug use lose their connection with the original problem and take on a life of their own. Over time, the disorders become self-reinforcing and the individual becomes stuck in the devastating vicious cycle.

Common Risk Factors for Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders

Individuals who suffer from eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating and individuals who suffer from substance abuse share common risk factors and characteristics which include:

  • Disorders occur during times of stress or transition
  • Family history of the behaviors
  • Low self-esteem
  • Acne
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Impulsivity
  • History of abuse
  • Family Dysfunction
  • Unhealthy peer pressure
  • Susceptibility to messages from others
  • Common Brain Chemistry
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Secretiveness
  • Obsessions
  • Social Isolation
  • Mood altering effects

Get Help for Co-Occurring Conditions

Many healthcare professionals often overlook the link between eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating and substance abuse. Treating just one of the disorders can cause the remaining disordered behavior to intensify. Rader Programs understands the nuances and difficulties of an eating disorder complicated by substance abuse and have put together a program that can address the specific treatment needs of both disorders. Recovery requires addressing both the underlying original problems as well as the embedded cycle of self-destructive behaviors.

Let Rader Programs help you stay healthy for a lifetime.

For more information on Rader Program’s substance abuse treatment and other treatment programs, call 1-800-841-1515 or request a free assessment today.