Those With Eating Disorders Likelier To Abuse Alcohol
(NEW YORK, NY; December 18, 2003) Food for Thought: Substance
Abuse and Eating Disorders-the first comprehensive examination of the link
between substance abuse and eating disorders - reveals that up to one-half of
individuals with eating disorders abuse alcohol or illicit drugs, compared to
nine percent of the general population. Conversely, up to 35 percent of alcohol
or illicit drug abusers have eating disorders compared to three percent of the
general population. The 73-page report was released by The National Center on
Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA*) at Columbia University.
"For many young women, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are joined
at the hip with smoking, binge drinking and illicit drug use," said CASA president
and former US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph A. Califano,
Jr. "This lethal link between substance abuse and eating disorders sends a
signal to parents, teachers and health professionals - where you see the smoke
of eating disorders, look for the fire of substance abuse and vice versa."
This comprehensive report finds anorexia nervosa and bulimia
nervosa as the eating disorders most commonly linked to substance abuse. It
also identifies the shared risk factors and shared characteristics of both afflictions.
The report lists caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, diuretics, laxatives, emetics, amphetamines,
cocaine and heroin as substances used to suppress appetite, increase metabolism,
purge unwanted calories and self-medicate negative emotions.
|Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders
|Shared Risk Factors
- Occur in times of transition or stress
- Common brain chemistry
- Common family history
- Low self esteem, depression, anxiety, impulsivity
- History of sexual or physical abuse
- Unhealthy parental behaviors and low monitoring of children's activities
- Unhealthy peer norms and social pressures
- Susceptibility to messages from advertising and entertainment media
- Obsessive preoccupation, craving, compulsive behavior, secretiveness,
- Experience mood altering effects, social isolation
- Linked to other psychiatric disorders, suicide
- Difficult to treat, life threatening
- Chronic diseases with high relapse rates
- Require intensive therapy
The report found that because health professionals often overlook the link between
substance abuse and eating disorders, treatment options are virtually nonexistent
for these co-existing conditions.
"The public health community, parents and policy makers must educate our children
about healthy body images from a very young age, and treatment and prevention
programs must address the common co-occurrence of substance abuse and eating
disorders," stated Susan Foster, vice president and director of policy research
and analysis at CASA, who spearheaded the project.
"Advertisers put children at greater risk of developing an eating disorder through
the portrayal of unrealistic body images," noted Mr. Califano. "The average
American woman is 5'4" tall and weighs approximately 140 pounds, but the average
model that purportedly epitomizes our standard of beauty is 5'11" tall and weighs
117 pounds." The report found that women's magazines contain more than ten
times more ads and articles related to weight loss than men's magazines, which
is the same gender ratio reported for eating disorders.
The report finds that while only 15 percent of girls are overweight, 40 percent
of girls in grades one through five and 62 percent of teenage girls are trying
to loose weight. These girls are especially vulnerable to eating disorders
and related substance abuse problems.
Other notable findings include:
- Middle school girls (10 - 14 year olds) who diet more than once a week are
nearly four times likelier to become smokers.
- Girls with eating disorder symptoms are almost four times likelier to use
inhalants and cocaine.
- 12.6 percent of female high school students take diet pills, powders or
liquids to control their weight without a doctor's advice.
- Bulimic women who are alcohol dependent report a higher rate of suicide
attempts, anxiety, personality and conduct disorders and other drug dependence
than bulimic women who are not alcohol dependent.
- Hispanic girls are slightly more likely than Caucasian girls and significantly
more likely than African-American girls to report having fasted for 24 hours
or more and having vomited or taken laxatives to lose weight.
- As many as one million men and boys suffer from an eating disorder; gay
and bisexual males are at increased risk of such disorders.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA)
at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together
under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all
types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions
are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse
and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and
law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility
to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with
tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace
shame and despair with hope. CASA is the creator of the nationwide Family
Day initiative-The Fourth Monday in September-that promotes parental engagement
as a simple and effective way to reduce children's risk of smoking, drinking
and using illegal drugs.
Created: 12/18/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.