Can Eating Disorders Lead to Substance Abuse?

Why Does Substance Abuse Cause Eating Disorders?

It’s not unusual for substance abuse to occur in tandem with eating disorders. By themselves, eating disorders and substance abuse cause complex emotional, physical, and social challenges. When both are present in the same person, it becomes a dangerous combination. Treatment at a Glendale wellness clinic can become complicated and require special care.

Can Eating Disorders Lead to Substance Abuse?

Statistics about Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

While the majority of research on eating disorders has focused on women, some studies show similar prevalence among men. As many as 50% people of people who suffer from eating disorders also abuse substances such as alcohol, and as many as 35% of people who abuse substances also have an eating disorder. The most common eating disorder that occurs with substance abuse is bulimia nervosa. Patients with bulimia nervosa are most likely to abuse alcohol over any other substance. 

However, patients with any type of eating disorder have reported use of sedatives, stimulants, or illegal drugs, along with abuse of legal substances such as laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, or nicotine. Glendale addiction clinic has experience treating patients with comorbidities such as eating disorders, and understands the unique challenges these patients face. 

How are Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse Related?

While these two illnesses have a complex association that is not fully understood, research has shown us some of the details. We know that substance abuse can begin before, after, or at the same time as an eating disorder begins. In many cases, one disorder drives the other. The disorders may also occur coincidentally. 

Some patients indicate that they began to use methamphetamines or diet pills in an effort to reduce weight, while others may develop an eating disorder as a result of appetite suppression from drug use. In the case of anorexia, patients may turn to substances to encourage further weight loss, while bulimic patients may begin using substances in hopes of stopping urges for binge eating. When applicable to a patient’s situation, an important part of treatment at Glendale addiction therapy is working through the relationship between eating disorders and substance abuse so each condition can be effectively treated.

Generally, patients who suffer from both substance abuse and an eating disorder will have more severe symptoms associated with one or both of these conditions. They are likely to have higher rates of relapse, may have more severe medical complications from both conditions, and tend to become more seriously impaired than individuals with just one of these conditions. While both eating disorders and substance abuse can lead to death in severe situations, the combined mortality rate is higher than the mortality rate for just one of these conditions on its own. It’s important for people who are struggling with these conditions to seek an experienced Glendale drug treatment center for help.

What Causes These Disorders?

When your loved one is struggling with both an eating disorder and substance abuse, it’s natural to wonder why this might have happened. Research suggests that eating disorders themselves may be a type of addiction. There may also be shared genetic tendencies or environmental risk factors, such as trauma, that contribute. Other causes may include:

  • Brain chemistry imbalances, specifically dopamine and serotonin
  • Family history for either type of disorder
  • Mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty coping with stressful or traumatic events
  • Peer pressure
  • History of abuse in childhood

Treatment of Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

Many professionals are trained only in eating disorders or only in substance abuse, making integrated treatment a challenge. Each patient will need an individualized treatment plan with frequent medical oversight because of the challenges that these conditions pose when they occur together. 

Treatment for substance abuse encourages restraint and abstinence in a combination of inpatient and outpatient programs. In contrast, treatment for eating disorders often requires medical supervision and aggressive psychological intervention. Successful co-treatment can be challenging because the most commonly used treatments only work in a parallel manner, and symptoms of one disorder may become worse while the other condition is being treated. For example, the dietary changes and exercise that are commonly recommended by addiction therapy professionals can worsen an eating disorder.

Inpatient or residential treatment is usually necessary for a patient with these comorbidities, especially since both disorders mean increased risk of medical problems. Intensive psychological support is crucial. Patients need to recognize abstinence from substances while also remembering that moderate consumption of food is a basic need. This means increased control in some areas of life and reduced control in others. Integrated treatment with Glendale addiction therapy can be an excellent option for your loved one who is struggling.

Compassionate Addiction Therapy in Glendale

Corebella Health & Wellness is an experienced and local addiction treatment center offering a wide variety of comprehensive programs. We offer inpatient and outpatient programs which include supervised detox with a suboxone doctor, group and individual counseling sessions, pain management, weight loss programs, and even a wellness clinic to help you reach your health goals. We are able to work with most insurance plans. Give us a call today!


Corebella Health & Wellness

Corebella Health & Wellness

Tempe Location
2600 E Southern Ave Suite E-1
Tempe, Arizona 85282

Office: (480) 409-0322

Glendale Location
5700 W Olive Ave, Suite 107
Glendale, AZ 85302

Office: (602) 4929595

Scottsdale Location
6565 E Greenway Parkway Suite 102,
Scottsdale, AZ 85254

Office: (602) 649-0677

Email: [email protected]
FAX: 877-559-2816