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Substance abuse, addiction, and eating disorders often all go hand in hand.  What it comes down to is that, because of the many similarities and stark likenesses between an eating disorder and a drug or an alcohol addiction, an individual who suffers with one is very likely to begin suffering with another before too long.

Luckily, there exist many treatments and therapies that are structured and intended to address both and try to handle both at the same time.  When doing this the goal is to dig deep down with the patient and address his or her changing behavior patterns while simultaneously addressing the root causes of the addiction too.  Because substance abuse and eating disorders are both a physical dependence and a mental/behavioral conflict, these sides have to be addressed at the same time or they will not be effectively resolved.

What’s important to remember is that, if either you or a loved one of yours is struggling with an addiction disorder, or an eating disorder, or both in tandem, it’s of tantamount important that you know that there is hope for recovery and sobriety and clean living.  A lot of people who suffer do not realize this, but the prospect of having a true and lasting sense of peace, relief, and wellbeing is quite real and quite attainable.

The Science Behind the Addictions

Substance abuse, like eating disorders, is influenced by many different factors such as genetic traits, biological configurations, environmental settings, and psychological factors.  In fact scientists are currently estimating that genetic factors account for between 40 to 60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to addiction all in all.  When you add in the type of environment someone would have grown up in if he or she was growing up around a substance abuser or someone who had an eating disorder then the situation would be quite unpleasant indeed, and you could see why that person would grow up to do those same things.

Research on this that was found and brought to light suggests to us that nearly half of all individuals with an eating disorder of one kind or another are also abusing drugs and/or alcohol.  This is being done for people with eating disorders at a rate 5 times greater than what is seen in the general population of people who do not have eating disorders.

This is a pretty concerning correlation, and it makes curing it even more difficult when there are two addiction problems here, not just one.  The co-occurrence of these disorders affects both men and women too with no less than fifty-seven percent of males with an eating disorder also experiencing lifelong substance abuse problems too.  For men and women alike, the problems go hand in hand it would seem.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, eating disorders and substance abuse are both intricately correlated with much higher than expected rates of death both from the various medical complications that come up from this as well as suicide and psychological traumas too. The impact of addiction is extensive and sometimes permanent and medically it can include cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, lung disease, and cognitive changes; and that is just naming a couple of the more prevalent ones too.  There are others.

Statistics on the Matter

Some numbers were mentioned above, but they more correlated to the eating disorder problem in the nation, not the drug problem.  We know how prevalent eating disorders are, and we know how likely it is that a person with an eating disorder will also be a drug abuser, but how common and prevalent is addiction in the United States?  Some statistics on it have been included below:

• According to SAMHSA, (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), in the year 2009 there were approximately 23.5 million Americans who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem. Of these 23.5 million, only about eleven percent received treatment at a special facility.  This indicated that people with drug and alcohol issues are not seeking or receiving the treatment that they require in nearly high enough numbers.

• In 2015, there were more than twenty-five million Americans who were addicted to drugs or alcohol of one kind or another.  In that year, only about ten percent sought treatment for their addictions.

• Substance abuse, (especially when it is engaged upon with an eating disorder already in tow), is quite devastating.  For example, there were nearly 4.6 million drug-related ER visits in 2009. Of the 2.1 million drug-related ER visits:

• 27.1% involved non-medical use/abuse of pharmaceuticals
• 21.2% involved illicit drugs
• 32% involved the use of alcohol (alone or in combination with other drugs)

• ER visits that came about from the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs nearly doubled from the years of 2004 to 2009, making it responsible for more ER visits than all illicit drugs combined.  These are drugs that are legal and are supposed to be helpful.  Furthermore, these drugs are the ones that people with eating disorders tend to abuse the most.

• Visits to the ER because of a near death experience or an overdose involving non-medical use of pharmaceuticals has skyrocketed from 627,291 visits in 2004 to 1,244,579 in 2009, an increase of 98.4%. An interesting but concerning point was that these drugs also ranked as being the most commonly used and abused drugs by people with eating disorders too.  Easily the largest increases, by substance is as follows:
• oxycodone (242.2% increase)
• alprazolam (148.3% increase)
• hydrocodone products (124.5% increase)

• When it comes to what drugs cause the most damage and send the most people to the ER, only ecstasy saw a similar rate of increase in ER visits over the same time period when compared to prescription drugs and the damage that they caused.

• Studies indicate to us that adolescents whose very first use of alcohol occurred at age 14 or younger are in fact more than five times as likely to be classified with alcohol dependence or abuse as adults as those who had their first drink at age 21 or older.

What to Do About the Problem

As is just the case with eating disorders, early intervention and moving quickly to effect change with substance use is essential, and vice versa.  These disorders and addiction problems are devastating by themselves, but when you add into that a dual addiction problem of having a substance abuse habit and an eating disorder too then the problem becomes even more severe and on an entirely different level too.

Every day roughly 8,000 individuals aged 12 or older will use an illicit drug for the first time.  With this in mind, one must not hesitate to act fast when trying to get a loved one into a rehabilitation center.

The only way to properly address someone who has an addiction and an eating disorder is with inpatient rehabilitation at a qualified and certified inpatient, residential, drug and alcohol addiction and dependence treatment center, detox facility, rehab program, and recovery organization.  This is by far the best way to address the issue, and no method or means could be more successful and more indicative of a lifetime of recovery as this one could.

Inpatient rehab has the tools, the detox techniques, the group therapies, and the one-on-one counseling methodologies to appropriately track down and tackle each and every aspect of addiction as it is occurring in any given individual, be it a food related issue or a drug or alcohol related issue or both at the same time.  For this reason, now more than ever it is of the utmost important that family members and loved ones work tirelessly to get their afflicted loved ones into rehab.

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