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Drug Addiction and Eating Disorders

While experiencing life from the perspective of mental illness or general disorder, one may find himself—with shadowed comprehension —at odds with the rest of the world. So too can it be noted that one experiencing the weighty pull of addiction will often lack self-understanding enough to part the sea of disease and disorder and find clarity in sobriety. Marrying the two together—addiction and mental illness—life, the acceptance and understanding of one’s problems, and having the will to seek solutions through treatment, become significantly more difficult.

Throughout the country, as well as the world, addiction and mental illness tauntingly play off of one another, prodding and maiming until the weight of one ailment pronounces itself and the focus of any single-diagnosis treatment lies on that seemingly-heavier issue. Cyclically, these dueling factors tip the scale back and forth, making diagnoses difficult and priority of treatment in constant flux.

Two of the most serious of ailments to collide with one another are addiction and eating disorders. One afflicted with both of these conditions at once will require a great amount of recovery time, dedicated treatment, and support in order to overcome such detriments and repair life.

Further exploration of these dual diagnoses, risks and negative effects incurred by those suffering both ailments, and the appreciation of specified treatment, may lead you or your loved one toward a healthier life of safety and sobriety.


Drug addiction is a serious and ever-growing problem in this country. With celebrity overdoses, television shows based on addiction, and new rehabs popping up everywhere, this disease has evolved into a well-known epidemic that produces nearly more than can be treated.

Making many socially-swayed issues worse, new drugs–serious and powerfully addictive–appear all of the time. While treatment is present and facilities are providing better and more specialized care, combating the emergence and use of quickly fatal drugs is often an issue that needs to be approached in a deeper way.

As those who abuse drugs, like opioids, breach the border into the world on addiction, something happens that changes the regular course of their life. The brain is altered as addiction—very much so a disease—begins to seep its way into many vital areas; decision-making becomes more difficult; a sense of reality is interrupted; thought, emotion, responsibility, and morality are all damaged, put on hold, or stunted in some way within the mind of the addicted one.

With a mind now drowning in a substance it seems to rely on, life, its importance, and its value, is made second in line to that substance. Soon, the unfortunate soul who feels he cannot live without his drug of choice, is hit with something of greater concern.

The risk of experiencing what many, if not most, addicts experience is that of coexisting drug addiction and mental illness. This dual diagnosis can create a world in which addiction is ruled by negative emotion, negative emotion results in addiction, and addiction further fuels mental illness that keeps this cycle active and dangerous. The deeper way in which to head off life-threatening dual diagnosis is to address and treat both problems before they feed off of each other and perpetuate the rapid downward spiral.

Eating Disorders

While many mental illnesses are the root cause for receiving a dual diagnosis, a less common, though very dangerous issue that often couples itself with addiction is the eating disorder.

Eating disorders are never the same from one individual to the next. Someone may starve themselves as a result of self-esteem issues, while others may convince themselves that in binge eating and purging food, they are actually assisting themselves in maintaining a good weight

Again, not every disorder that is related to food consumption is the same. For this reason there are people—mainly women—who may begin one of a number of negative habits that cause anorexia for a reason that makes very little sense. Women (and men) have even been known to behave in an obsessive manner about the food they require or the foods they will not consume, making their diets beyond difficult to maintain.

Wholly unnatural and dangerous, eating disorders cause health problems that range from ulcers and esophageal tears to organ failure and throat cancer. Routinely cutting off ones nutritional needs, forcing reverse consumption by purging, refusing regular meal consumption, and a slew of other eating disorder norms are among the most serious of diseases which result in magnitudinous mental fissures. It is for this reason that eating disorders fall under the category of dual diagnosis mental illness, as they have been recognized as a source of fuel in the world of addiction.

Addiction & Eating Disorders: A Heavy Risk

Experiencing the debilitation that comes with addiction often pronounces the negatives associated with mental illness for those who have a dual diagnosis. The coupling of addiction with an eating disorder increases health risks, suicide probability, and long-term emotional and physical health problems.

Perhaps the most serious repercussion that can be associated with dual diagnoses is the apparent promotion by one disease of the other. As addiction saturates one’s inherent ability to cope with negative emotion, mental illness—equally smothering proper coping techniques and positive outcomes—pushes harder against that which leads the addicted individual toward further drug abuse.

This infinite course can rightfully be represented by Newton’s Law of (E)Motion. With Addiction acting as the initial action, mental illness—in this case an eating disorder—maintains an equal, opposite reaction. Drug use meant to thwart the negatives of mental illness in an act of self-medication (seen by the user as a solution and therefore positive) instead causes an equally negative effect. And, with the recognition of a dual diagnosis cycle, this analogy can work both ways, with the initial action coming from the mental illness and causing the reaction of addiction.

Between the dangers of every eating disorder, its risk in affecting mental health, and the emergence of coinciding addiction, fatality and serious health issues must be addressed. Working together, an eating disorder and a drug addiction can have the power to cause increased risk of cancers in the mouth, throat, stomach, and other vital organs. Immediate death by drug abuse may occur, while an eating disorder can cause major impact on the heart as it works quickly to accommodate changes in the body. Drug abuse, heart problems, vital organ disturbances… many issues begin adding up. And marrying every negative together, as they have a higher chance of occurring together, should show a dual diagnosis patient what they’re really up against.


As we recognize the existence of a dual diagnosis, we are strained with the knowledge that we may never know which action came first, nor which reaction followed. Having both an addiction and an eating disorder (or other mental illness) needs to be treated as more of an undetermined, yet crucial, diagnosis. The undetermined idea is attributed to the lack of certain origination.

Is my addiction hereditary? Was I always prone to addiction and having body issues and subsequent bulimia triggered my use? Or was it the genetic tendency and addictive traits that sparked the beginning of my eating disorder before I ever used?

These questions will surface, but will likely not be greeted with answers. There is simply one way to move beyond the questions and begin solving both issues, and that is by seeking dual diagnosis treatment.

Know that treatment must be had in order to find the best solution for the coexisting problems. Going it alone or solving one problem and letting the other become second fiddle usually results in the “fixed” problem resurfacing at a later date, often worse than before. For this reason, finding the most appropriate rehabilitation treatment that addresses each individual problem as its own underlying contributor, is a necessity.

All over the country programs exist that treat any number or mental illnesses that perpetuate in conjunction with a drug addiction. Traditional rehab facilities may offer this style of dual diagnosis treatment, as well as many other non-conventional treatment options. Holistic approaches, for instance, often seek to treat underlying mental issues while providing care for addiction.

Divide And Conquer

Knowing that you or someone you love is experiencing coexisting mental illness and drug addiction can sound like a lot to swallow. The best way to find life again and move toward a better path is to seek out the best fit in treatment programs. Finding something that meets your needs and is in your desired location can often be difficult, but if you contact, we can assist you in getting where you need to go. Contact us today and take a step toward a healthy life.

Contact us today to learn about the options best suited to meet your individual needs.

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