I read a very painful article the other day about a woman in her 30s from Korea who had been pressured to lose weight, and died from being on a so-called alcohol diet. She was skipping all other meals throughout the day only drinking alcohol. According to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) 35 percent of alcohol or illicit drug abusers have eating disorders compared to three percent of the general population.
It reminded me of clients I have worked with who may not only have an eating disorder, pressured to lose weight due to the pop culture’s emphasis on being thin, or skip meals so they can feel stronger effects of the alcohol. How many of you who are in recovery or still struggling, remember not eating so you could get a greater buzz on an empty stomach? I think we all can relate to that. Right?
For many young women, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia and binge drinking or illicit drug use go hand and hand. What we see in the media puts out teenagers and young women at a greater risk of developing an eating disorder through the portrayal of unrealistic body images. It is no wonder that women’s magazines contain more than ten times more ads and articles related to weight loss than men’s magazines.
Together or alone, these disorders are lethal. Some ethnicities such as this young Korean woman, who died, have a reduced amount of enzymes to break down the alcohol, which makes it even more dangerous. But even with the proper enzymes, just drinking alcohol alone can damage the stomach, esophagus, and liver. It can also cause malnutrition and reduce the functions of the digestive organs.
Other issues related to a lack of nutrients and oxygen include the risk of a higher pulse rate, heart attack, forgetfulness known as “Wet Brain”, amnesia, and later Alzheimer’s disease in people only in their 40’s and 50. According to CASA, it also lists caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, diuretics, laxatives, emetics, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin as other substances used to suppress appetite, increase metabolism, purge unwanted calories and self-medicate negative emotions.
The exhaustive report finds anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa as the eating disorders most commonly linked to substance abuse and for the first time 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.
Here are some risk factors you may want to be looking for if you know someone who might be suffering from an eating disorder and substance abuse.
1. Occurs during stressful times.
2. Family history of the disorder.
3. Low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, low coping skills
4. History of trauma such as sexual or physical abuse
5. Peer pressure
6. Parents who are not present both emotionally and physically
6. Addiction to celebrities and easily influenced by the media