Diabulimia and substance abuse can create greater medical risk than either disorder alone. A substance use disorder can make diabulimia recovery more challenging.

Diabulimia refers to an eating disorder where people with type 1 diabetes give themselves less insulin than they need with the goal of losing weight. Diabulimia and substance abuse can create greater medical risk than either disorder alone. For the safest and most successful outcome, both disorders need to be treated at the same time.

Effects of Drug Abuse on Diabulimia

Diabulimia is a disorder that affects a person’s physical and mental health. People with diabulimia feel high levels of emotional distress. Some manage their emotions with drugs or alcohol, which can worsen their struggle with diabulimia. Drug abuse may mask a person’s emotions for a short while. However, it also makes diabulimia recovery more challenging. 

Alcohol and Diabetes

Alcohol use is common among people with diabetes. However, people with diabetes need to watch their alcohol intake closely. The liver does not produce glucose at typical levels when a person consumes alcohol. 

For a person with diabetes, alcohol use can cause a significant drop in blood glucose levels. Because of the sometimes dangerous effect alcohol use can have on blood glucose levels, it’s the recommended alcohol consumption for those with diabetes is no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.  

Dangers of Substance Misuse when Diabetic

Diabetes is a medical condition that impacts every system in the body. Because of the condition’s far-reaching effects, people with diabetes often have other health conditions. Managing multiple medical concerns simultaneously can be a challenge. 

This responsibility becomes even more difficult when a substance use disorder develops. Like diabetes, substance abuse also affects multiple body systems and can cause organ damage over time. A person misusing drugs can also have more difficulty maintaining healthy eating habits and keeping track of diabetes medication. Neglecting these key health practices can lead to more serious diabetes complications. 

Statistics on Diabetes and Addiction

Diabetes and addiction are a dangerous combination. Research studies summarized by the Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation journal estimate that between 50–60 percent of people with diabetes consume alcohol. 

People with substance use disorders may have a higher chance of developing diabetes than members of the general population.  A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health stated that 4.5 percent of adults with diabetes had substance use disorders compared to 2.5 percent of adults without diabetes. 

Co-occurring addiction and diabetes can significantly damage overall health. According to a survey from the Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Journal, people with diabetes and a substance use disorder have more health issues than those with diabetes alone. A person with diabetes has a higher risk of other co-occurring medical conditions. People with both diabetes and substance use disorders spend more time in the hospital for severe diabetic complications and are less likely to keep track of routine diabetes care.

Treating Diabulimia and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Diabulimia is a complex disorder requiring comprehensive medical and mental health treatment. The same level of care is needed for the treatment of substance use disorders. Diabulimia treatment centers offer care from a variety of disciplines, nutrition and dietary counseling, endocrinology and diabetic nursing. Medical supervision is needed to manage the physical strain of both substance withdrawal and diabetes. 

When a person is going through withdrawal, inpatient care is usually needed. The treatment team will decide when a person is medically and emotionally stable. At that time, the team will recommend outpatient treatment. When this change occurs, medical supervision is reduced as well. 

Support groups play an essential role in the recovery process for substance use disorders. These self-help options include meetings, sponsors, education and online support: 

Social support is an essential part of the diabulimia recovery process. Support groups and online social networks create opportunities for supportive relationships and empathy. 

  • Diabulimia Helpline has several online support opportunities. 
  • Two Facebook pages, Diabulimia Awareness and Diabulimia Friends and Family Support Group have growing memberships and regular interactions.
  • The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) has several forums for people in recovery, friends and family members.

Recovery can seem like a big step, but for a person with co-occurring disorders, it can be life-changing. Treatment is available, and you can get started with just one phone call. If you or a loved one need help with a substance use disorder and diabulimia, call The Recovery Village. Speak to our representatives and get information today.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Erika Krull, LMHP
Erika Krull has a master’s degree in mental health counseling and has been a freelance writer since 2006. Read more

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Narcotics Anonymous. “Narcotics anonymous world services“>Narcotic[…]orld services.” (n.d.). Accessed March 27, 2019.

Ojo, O., Wang, X. H., Ojo, O. O., Ibe, J. “The effects of substance abuse on blood glucose parameters in patients with diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis“>The effe[…]meta-analysis.” International Journal of Environment and Public Health, 2018. Accessed March 27, 2019.

Smart Recovery. “SMART recovery – self-management and recovery training“>SMART re[…]very training.” Accessed March 27, 2019.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety. “Secular organizations for sobriety“>Secular […] for sobriety.” Accessed March 27, 2019.


Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.