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What is Laxative Abuse and Substance Abuse?
There is a common misconception that drugs purchased over the counter are “safe,” but this is never the case when they are used improperly. While sometimes over-the-counter drugs are used for recreational purposes, they may also be abused to achieve specific results, such as weight loss. This is the case with laxative abuse, which is often part of an eating disorder, to help reduce body weight.
Laxative abuse is a form of substance abuse. Research indicates that 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime, and contrary to stereotypes, eating disorders can affect anyone. For example, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, one in three individuals who has an eating disorder is male. Additionally, black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binge-eating and purging, while 20-30% of adults with eating disorders also have autism.
All backgrounds, ages and professions are impacted by eating disorders and substance abuse, and all deserve equal attention and help. Furthermore, while eating disorders are commonly associated with a desire for perceived beauty, this is not the only reason they develop. Anxiety, depression, stress, bullying, low self-esteem, and trauma can trigger eating disorders and substance abuse.
However, eating disorders are also commonly found among individuals who play certain sports, especially those that require showcasing of the body, such as swimmers, gymnasts, and body builders, and those based in weight classes, such as boxing and wrestling. Not all eating disorders entail a desire to lose weight, and some individuals may engage in unhealthy binging behaviors to gain weight, or to provide themselves with emotional comfort.
While eating disorders can encompass a variety of behaviors, such as meal skipping, binging and purging, compulsive exercise, food obsession, compulsive overeating, fad dieting, pica, avoidant food disorder, and other issues, the abuse of laxatives is one common symptom of an eating disorder. While laxative abuse — and substance abuse — may not be perceived as a “hard drug,” it can take a serious toll on the physical and emotional health of those who abuse this substance.
If you, or someone you know, is abusing laxatives, help is available. Call the caring team at Resurgence Behavioral Health today.
Effects of Laxative Abuse
There are several kinds of laxatives on the market, all of which are intended for occasional use to relieve constipation. Depending on the nature of constipation they are intended to treat, laxatives can add bulk to stool, lubricate the intestines to ease passage, soften stool through increased water absorption, or stimulate the activity of the lower intestine, increasing the speed with which the body processes and removes stool.
When laxatives are abused for weight loss purposes, they typically work one of two ways. First, laxatives that increase the water concentration of stool accomplish this by pulling water from the rest of the body. This reduction in the presence of water in the body is seen as a loss of “water weight,” which may be slightly visible. Since the body will work to rebuild hydration, this method will often be used daily, or more than once a day, to achieve the desired effect.
Second, laxatives that stimulate intestinal activity may help individuals pass any stool within the body, which may result in a small reduction in perceived bloating. That said, research has shown that laxatives do not actually promote significant weight loss. By the time food has reached the large intestine, the calories have already been absorbed by the body.
However, abusing laxatives does deplete the body of water, electrolytes, and minerals. As a result, those who abuse laxatives typically experience issues with dehydration. This dehydration can become serious, resulting in tremors, fainting, and muscle weakness. With prolonged use.
Kidney damage is common in those who abuse laxatives. Addiction can also develop in those who abuse laxatives. And while this addiction is not associated with a “high” the body can become so accustomed to artificial stimulation of the large intestine that it no longer responds normally. For these individuals, laxative use will become necessary, and larger doses will be needed, maintain expected bowel function.
Colon infections, irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, and sometimes liver damage, can also result. Help for laxative abuse is available and there is no stigma in seeking the support you need. With the guidance of a treatment team, you can break the hold of eating disorders on your life and rebuild your body and mind.
Mental Illness and Laxative Abuse
While laxative abuse is a sign of an eating disorder, it is a complex behavior, that is connected to larger emotional health issues. There are common societal stereotypes that suggest that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice. These misconceptions depict men and women who cope with eating disorders as choosing to jeopardize their health for beauty and may suggest that they are “spoiled” in their lack of appreciation of food. Such beliefs are false and endanger those who struggle with eating disorders, making them less likely to seek help.
Eating disorders are often based on an underlying mental health issue, and studies show that there is a strong connection between eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. For this reason, eating disorders can be found in veteran populations who have experienced trauma.
Borderline personality disorder, depression, and social anxiety disorder are also common among those with eating disorders. Understanding the underlying role of mental health in eating disorders can help friends, loved ones, coaches, and educators demonstrate the appropriate response when eating disorder symptoms, such as weight loss, mood swings, and frequent sickness, begin to emerge.
Those who suffer from an eating disorder will likely continue to struggle without professional intervention. Those who do not get help can suffer from serious, long-term health consequences, which can include fatal conditions, such as heart and kidney failure.
It is estimated that one person in America dies every 52 minutes from an eating disorder. While many individuals who express eating disorder behaviors are involved in sports, these behaviors are never acceptable “means to an end” to excel. If symptoms of an eating disorder, or laxative abuse or evident, it is important to get immediate professional help from Resurgence Behavioral Health.
Treatment for Laxative Abuse
Laxative abuse and eating disorders can have lasting physical and mental health consequences, that must be professionally addressed. Digestive problems, dental issues, malnourishment, cognitive issues, and much more can result from eating disorders. And if the issues go untreated, some of the damage can be permanent.
Professional treatment for laxative abuse and eating disorders can help individuals confront underlying physical and mental health issues, build resilience, and start to create healthier patterns of behavior. Prescriptions for depression or anxiety may also be incorporated into professional treatment, to help those with eating disorders cope with some of the stressors that trigger behaviors such as laxative abuse.
Eating disorders can also lead to an unhealthy drop in testosterone for men. Testosterone replacement treatments can be provided as part of a treatment plan, to help men with eating disorders begin to feel healthier. Relationship counseling and family therapy may also be strategies in laxative abuse and eating disorder recovery, to help improve communication and resolve underlying family dynamic issues that may create barriers to treatment.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, 12-Step programs, counseling, peer support, and other customizable treatment options can help those recovering from eating disorders find acceptance, support, and necessary resources to begin their lives again.
Let Resurgence Behavior Health take the stress out of your recovery journey. The Resurgence Behavioral Health team will communicate with your insurance provider on your behalf, and we offer payment plans that can work within almost any financial situation. We also accept most PPO insurance and private forms of payment. Just call us at 855-458-0050 and begin your laxative abuse recovery with Resurgence.
How to Get Help
Overcoming laxative addiction is difficult, but Resurgence Behavioral Health is here to help you through. Our serene locations in Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, and Fullerton Hills have everything you need to minimize distractions and rebuild your sense of self.
Our experienced team and flexible programs will help you find the relief and recovery you deserve. We know that no two eating disorder experiences are the same, and Resurgence offers residential, outpatient, and partial hospitalization programs, counseling, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, 12-Step Programs, peer support, nutrition therapy, and other customized resources to help you make a lasting change.
You deserve to love yourself and experience a resilient life. Call Resurgence Behavioral Health at (855) 458-0050 and experience a healthier future.