Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders: How Common is it?

Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders: How Common is it?

Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders: How Common is it?

Recent research into co-occurring substance abuse and eating disorders shows that almost 50% of people with eating disorders are also abusing drugs or alcohol. They may be abusing prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines, such as diet pills. Often, symptoms of the two disorders are not present at the same time. However, when one comes under control, the other may raise its pesky head and make itself known. Examples of this would be someone who has stopped substance abuse and then begins compensating and moving into an eating disorder, or someone who has been treated successfully for an eating disorder and then begins drinking alcohol excessively.

Statistics show that 4% of our population has a major eating disorder, which is a treatable disease affecting both men and women.   Because of the secrecy and shame involved, many keep their eating disorders hidden, even from professionals when they are checking into a recovery center for substance abuse. Eventually they find this makes recovery more difficult for them.

The good news is that more facilities have the capability to screen incoming clients and then provide the best education and treatment approaches for co-occurring disorders. Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders allows care providers to create a treatment plan that will address symptoms of both simultaneously by addressing the underlying issues. Appropriate treatment of co-occurring eating disorder and substance abuse involves analyzing the common triggers, emotional issues and relapse cycles. Care providers are able to treat each client as an individual and develop a custom plan for their optimal health.

Consultation with a professional is the first step to determining whether residential or outpatient care is needed. Trained therapists and counselors will walk you through the process and can help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Once treatment has begun, there is hope for recovery and healing for the entire family. When assessing a program, look for indications that substance abuse and eating disorders treatments are available.

Start by using this basic checklist:

  • Chemical dependency group sessions
  • Individual counseling for various types of addictions
  • A variety of therapies (as “one size does not fit all”)
  • 12-step meetings in-house and a plan to progress towards attending outside meetings
  • Meal planning and observation
  • One-on-one supervision
  • Weight and bathroom monitoring
  • Recommendations for keeping a food journal
  • Nutritional services
  • Medical monitoring

An eating disorder by itself can have a significant consequence on a person’s health. Having a co-occurring disorder of substance abuse increases the likelihood of health complications. But, be reassured. Individuals who continue working on a recovery program can experience success. Treatment is available and recovery is possible.