Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Addiction and Eating Disorders are Linked
A report issued by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University in New York reveals that parents of girls with eating disorders should take special note (web site

“Individuals with eating disorders are up to five times more likely to abuse alcohol or illicit drugs, and those who abuse alcohol or illicit drugs are up to 11 times likelier to have eating disorders,” said Joseph Califano, CASA president and former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. “Both problems afflict the very young and quickly spiral out of control. High school girls with eating disorder symptoms are much likelier to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use drugs than those without such symptoms, ..Even middle-school girls — typically age 10 to 14 — who have dieted in the previous month and evidence no eating pathology are almost twice as likely to become smokers as non-dieters.”

CASA collected information from federal government health data, and 500 books, reports and articles for its analysis. Patients with anorexia and bulimia may share certain characteristics with substance abusers such as brain chemistry imbalances, low self-esteem or depression, CASA said. They may also have unrealistic body images. The report found that while only 15 percent of girls under 18 were overweight, 40 percent of girls in grades one through five and 62 percent of teenage girls said they were trying to lose weight.

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