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There are many different types of eating disorders, but the four most common include anorexia, bulimia, compulsive eating and binge eating. Eating disorders can result in physical, emotional, and mental pain. Studies have found that, in America, nearly fifty percent of individuals with eating disorders abused alcohol and/ or drugs, which is five times greater than the general population. In the same study it was noted that thirty-five percent of individuals who abused drugs and/ or alcohol had eating disorders, which is two percent greater than the general population. 

It is not uncommon for an individual with an eating disorder to engage in substance abuse prior to the manifestation of an eating disorder, during an eating disorder, or after recovery from an eating disorder. An eating disorder can wreck havoc on a person’s body and mind. Regardless of the type of eating disorder, it is likely an individual will experience malnourishment and/ or severe undernourishment and his or her body will react accordingly. Akin to one’s physical response to habitual drug use, one’s brain chemistry can change as a result of an eating disorder. There are many different reasons an individual may turn to drugs and/ or alcohol when living with an eating disorder.


It is not out of the ordinary for an individual with an eating disorder to rely on the use of drugs and/ or alcohol to perpetuate his or her eating disorder. For example, according to Social Work Today, some of the various affects elicited by certain drugs can be useful in suppressing one’s appetite and reducing the amount of caloric intake. For some, alcohol may be used as a means to alleviate anxiety surrounding food consumption and/ or engaging in a purging (removing food through vomiting, excessive exercise, abuse of laxatives…etc.) episode, which can be dangerous. A person who drinks alcohol on an empty stomach can rapidly become extremely inebriated. Additionally, drugs and/ or alcohol may be used as an erroneous form of self-medication, thought to help make living with an eating disorder easier. The effects of an eating disorder can alter an individual’s capability of successfully metabolizing and physically processing certain drugs, which can lead to overdose. 


Any individual struggling with and eating disorder and addiction should attend, or at the very least, obtain help from a dual diagnosis treatment program. A dual diagnosis treatment program works to support its clients by creating tailored treatment plans that integrate equal consideration for one’s addiction and co morbid disorder. The therapeutic modalities used will vary and depend on the capabilities of the specific treatment program as well as the unique needs of the individual. While it may seem intuitive to treat both ailments simultaneously, it can also carry immense pressure to attempt to resolve everything at once. Learning how to live a healthy life without the use of drugs and/ or alcohol will take steadfast commitment. The reality is that in order to have the highest potential for success, any individual with a dual diagnosis must address his or her addiction and co morbid disorder with simultaneous and equal steadfast commitment, which is best accomplished with the support of dual diagnosis mental health specialist and/ or attending a dual diagnosis treatment program. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one.