While little is known about the connection between rumination disorder and addiction, it’s clear that people must receive comprehensive treatment when both conditions are present.

Rumination disorder is an eating disorder that involves the routine regurgitation of food, which may cause a person to avoid social interactions. This isolation can put people at a higher risk for alcohol or drug abuse. However, because the true prevalence of rumination disorder is unknown, the rate of substance abuse in this population is also unclear.

As educational efforts improve and more people become aware of the condition, individuals with rumination disorder may come forth more readily and seek treatment. For instance, as awareness increased for other eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, more treatment options became available. Data shows that individuals with eating disorders have a higher risk of comorbid substance abuse disorders. In some cases, the risk is five times higher than the general population.

Effects of Drug Use on Rumination Disorder

Drug use is likely to have an adverse impact on rumination disorder, primarily due to the effects that drugs and alcohol have on gastrointestinal (GI) motility and esophageal muscle tone. Alcohol, in particular, has a high risk of increasing GI motility and further relaxing esophageal tone, which can worsen rumination disorder or make it more difficult to control.

Statistics on Rumination Disorder and Addiction

Relatively little is known about the rate of addiction and rumination disorder, primarily because the actual incidence of rumination disorder is unknown. Many people with rumination disorder have other developmental problems that require supervision or institutionalization. Because of this, it is highly unlikely that these individuals would have access to any drugs or alcohol for recreational purposes or abuse.

Treating Rumination Disorder and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder

When rumination disorder is present at the same time as a substance use disorder, treating rumination disorder is the first step in recovery. Behavioral treatment strategies for addressing this condition may include:

  • Habit-reversal with relaxation
  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  • Special feeding techniques
  • Reinforcing other behaviors
  • Hypnosis and relaxation techniques
  • Guided imagery
  • Stress management
  • Gum chewing
  • Sipping water between bites of food

Once rumination disorder is under control, substance abuse disorders must be treated in traditional recovery centers where the conditions can be managed concurrently. If you or a loved one are ready to receive treatment for addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Reach out to a representative today for more information or to get started.

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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 – Dr. Kim Langdon, MD
Kimberly Langdon, MD is a retired University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist with 19 years of clinical experience. She graduated from the Ohio State University College of Medicine, then completed her OB/GYN residency program at the Ohio State University Medical Center. Read more

NEDA. “Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders.” Accessed March 22, 2019.

Grad, Simona. “The Effect of Alcohol on Gastrointestinal Motility.” Bentham Science, 2016. Accessed March 22, 2019.

Milad, Mena. “Gastrointestinal Motility and Functional Bowel Disorders.” Practical Gastroenterology, September 2016. Accessed March 22, 2019.

USF Health Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry. “Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) / Habit Reversal Training.” Accessed March 22, 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.