Research shows that 8.1% of people with anorexia and 2.7% of those with bulimia abuse or are dependent upon appetite-reducing amphetamines.
Article at a Glance:
Amphetamine use is not uncommon among people with eating disorders. Keep the following key points in mind when considering the relationship between amphetamines and eating disorders:
Amphetamine use is more common among people with anorexia nervosa than those with bulimia nervosa
Amphetamines are the most frequently abused substance among those with anorexia
Amphetamine addiction can develop either prior to or after the onset of an eating disorder
Amphetamine side effects include decreased appetite and weight loss, so individuals with eating disorders may use these drugs to control weight
Methamphetamine is an illicit drug that people with eating disorders may abuse to induce weight loss, but they may also become dependent upon prescription amphetamines, such as Adderall or Concerta
Those who experience co-occurring eating disorders and addiction to amphetamines will require treatment that addresses both conditions
Amphetamines and Eating Disorders
Amphetamine abuse and eating disorders may occur together. Research shows that individuals with eating disorders are likely to abuse amphetamines and those who report using methamphetamine indicate that they do so to achieve weight loss. Amphetamine dependence can, therefore, become problematic and exacerbate symptoms in those with an eating disorder.
Commonly Used Amphetamines with Eating Disorders
Methamphetamines are a common drug of abuse among those with eating disorders, which is not surprising given that side effects include decreased appetite and significant weight loss. While abuse of illicit methamphetamine is common in individuals with eating disorders, some people may turn to prescription amphetamines to reduce appetite and induce weight loss. Physicians typically prescribe amphetamines to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Individuals suffering from eating disorders may obtain amphetamines through a prescription from a doctor or they may obtain them illegally.
Someone with an eating disorder may abuse one of the following amphetamines to promote dramatic weight loss:
Some amphetamine users may refer to these drugs by their street names such as black beauties, speed, uppers or bennies. They may be taken in pill form or snorted, injected or smoked.
Relationship Between Amphetamines Addiction and Eating Disorders
A relationship exists between amphetamines addiction and eating disorders because people may begin using amphetamines to control appetite and reduce their body weight. Over time, as people continue to use amphetamines, they may become physically dependent upon them. Addiction to amphetamines can produce unpleasant side effectssuch as sleep disturbances, paranoid behaviors, extreme agitation, and unpredictable violent outbursts.
It is also possible that amphetamine addiction can develop before an eating disorder. One study found that in cases of anorexia and substance use disorders, the substance use disorder tends to come before the anorexia. It is possible that a person becomes addicted to amphetamines then develops mental health symptoms and a distorted body image that leads to an eating disorder.
Prevalence of Amphetamine Use with Eating Disorders
Amphetamine abuse is likely prevalent among individuals with eating disorders. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 14% of people with a substance use disorder have anorexia and another 14% have bulimia.
Research also suggests that amphetamine abuse may be more common among those with anorexia nervosa when compared to bulimia nervosa. A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders with women revealed the following results:
- Among those with anorexia, 8.1% experience abuse or dependence of amphetamines
- 2.7% of individuals with bulimia nervosa abuse or are dependent upon amphetamines
- Amphetamines are the most common drug of abuse among those with anorexia
While the International Journal of Eating Disorders study did not report amphetamine abuse statistics for those with binge eating disorder, it is likely that amphetamine abuse also occurs in this population. A separate study found that about a quarter of people with binge eating disorder also experienced a substance use disorder during their lifetimes. It is possible that people with this diagnosis may use amphetamines to attempt to reduce their appetite and prevent binging.
Treatment for Amphetamines Addiction and Comorbid Eating Disorders
Whether the eating disorder or amphetamine addiction occurs first, those who have an amphetamines addiction and a comorbid eating disorder diagnosis will require treatment for both conditions. Eating disorder treatments may involve any of the following:
- Nutritional Counseling
- Psychological Treatments, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Family Therapy
When an amphetamine addiction co-occurs with the eating disorder, therapies should be integrated into the treatment plan. Treatment for amphetamines addiction can also include medications, psychological therapy or withdrawalmanagement programs. Depending on the severity of the addiction and eating disorder, treatment may occur in an inpatient setting or on an outpatient basis.
If you or a loved one live with a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder, like an eating disorder, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative about how individualized treatment programscan help. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
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Grilo, Carlos. “DSM‐IV psychiatric disorder comorbidity and its correlates in binge eating disorder.” International Journal of Eating Disorders, October 24, 2008. Accessed May 18, 2019.
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