Alcohol Dependence and Eating Disorders: Holistic Treatment Required
A recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has found that some of the genetic risk factors that influence vulnerability to alcohol dependence also influence binge eating and compensatory behaviors.
You read that right. Alcoholism and disordered eating are heritable traits and are NOT mutually exclusive.
Also, this study also found that the relationship between alcohol dependence and binge eating holds in both women AND men.
Let me reiterate that last point. Men predisposed to alcoholism are more likely to binge eat and participate in compensatory behaviors.
I may be going out on a limb with this one, but I would venture to guess that this relationship holds for other addictive substances like cocaine, meth, and pharmaceuticals.
From a treatment perspective, this means that treatment of alcoholism must take “screen” for disorder eating in order to develop a comprehensive, what I would call holistic, treatment protocol that addresses all the manifestations of disease in order to improve the likelihood of lasting and meaningful recovery. If the relationship between chemical dependency and eating disorders is not adequately addressed, an individual in recovery abstaining from their drug of choice may fall back into patterns associated with anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, etc. that may set them up for chemical relapse. I suspect the inverse applies as well in that people in treatment for disordered eating may fall back into substance abuse that could lead to the expression of their eating disorder.
Fortunately, although they may be few and far between, holistic treatment programs that recognize the relationship and have programs in place to properly address the relationship between addiction, eating disorders and nutrition do exist. I am blessed to be practicing in such a facility.
There is a solution. You may have to work to find it, but it does exist.
Image courtesy of Geoff Francis