Eating Disorders, Alcoholism or Other Addictions

It is common for eating disorders, alcoholism or other addictions to co-occur – numerous treatment centers and research studies estimate that 50% of patients entering treatment for Eating Disorders also have a Substance Use Disorder. Some individuals may also “trade addictions” – research shows that approximately one-third of those with a previous history of drug/alcohol abuse develop an Eating Disorder. Certain personality traits, such as impulsiveness, have been linked to Eating Disorders, Alcoholism or Substance Use Disorders.

Substance Use Disorders involve cognitive, behavioral and physiological symptoms which can cause marked distress, as the individual is unable to control their use of the substance despite significant substance-related problems. Substance Use Disorders include these classes of drugs: Alcohol, Marijuana, Hallucinogens, Inhalants, Opiates, Sedatives, Stimulants and Tobacco. Addiction is considered a progressive disease which affects the brain –  with resulting mood changes from euphoria with initial substance use, to irritability if the substance is not available when use was planned, to dependency on the substance to prevent painful withdrawal symptoms.

The recommended treatment for Substance Use Disorders is drug abstinence – however, this is often easier said than done. Changes in brain circuits may persist after drug detoxification, which can lead to intense cravings and subsequent relapse. If an individual has a co-occurring Eating Disorder, these behaviors often worsen as means of coping with drug abstinence. If the individual attempts to control their Eating Disorder behaviors, this can trigger relapse with drug use. What is the key to recovery from Eating Disorders, Alcoholism and ALL addictions?

At Positive Pathways, we take an integrative approach to treat Eating Disorders, Alcoholism or other addictions simultaneously, by addressing the root cause of addictive behaviors and drug addiction. We combine abstinence plans for Substance Use Disorders with Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy (EDIT)™ recovery plans for co-occurring Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder or Food Addiction. For community support, we encourage participation in 12-Step groups and other abstinence-based support groups (such as LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, Phoenix Multipart). We also have a NEW 12-Week Recovery Group for Eating Disorders, Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

As an outpatient eating disorder and alcoholism treatment center, Positive Pathways is well equipped to assist clients who have mild symptoms of a co-occurring Substance Use Disorder. For moderate symptoms, or individuals recently discharged from residential treatment, we provide customized INTENSIVE OUTPATIENT PROGRAMS (IOP)s on a 1-on-1 basis. For individuals with severe symptoms of a Substance Use Disorder, we make referrals to Addiction Treatment Centers for detoxification and inpatient care. Unsure about your symptom severity or the type of treatment you need? Call for a COMPLIMENTARY CONSULTATION with Dr. Dorie.

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Special Message About Eating Disorders & Alcohol/Drug Abuse

Have you been struggling with an eating disorder, possibly for years? Do you find “extra relief” when you drink or use drugs – sometimes to excess? Are you trading one addiction for another? Discover how to be FREE of eating disorders and drug abuse by following your own unique pathway of recovery!


Although there are genetic factors, anyone can develop
Eating Disorders, Alcoholism & Drug Addictions.
Can you relate to these behaviors and warning signs?

Eating Disorders and Alcoholism

UnknownRisk factors for alcohol abuse and addiction include: women who consume 9+ drinks/week, men who consume 12+ drinks/week, or anyone who consumes 3+ drinks per occasion at least once a week. Signs of Substance Use Disorder and Alcoholism include an inability to control drinking despite negative consequences (DUI,  job loss, relationship issues, financial problems). There are genetic factors in the development of alcoholism, but alcoholism is a progressive disease, so anyone who drinks heavily over time is at risk of becoming addicted. Alcohol addiction includes symptoms such as memory lapses after heavy drinking (“blackouts”), needing more alcohol to “feel drunk” (tolerance), and alcohol withdrawal symptoms (shakiness, irritability, mood swings, nausea, sweating, and seizures). Eating disorders can “feed” alcoholism — for example, when an individual replaces meals with alcohol, a behavior which is sometimes referred to as “drunkorexia.” Binge eating and binge drinking can also go hand-in-hand — literally, an entire pizza and a six-pack of beer, or more. Subsisting on alcohol can lead to extreme malnutrition and other serious complications, while binge eating and drinking can overload the body with toxins and promote obesity. Treatment involves a thorough assessment of a client’s alcohol use over time, and education about the progressive stages of alcoholism from early (“euphoric drinking”) to middle (“personality changes”) to late (“physical addiction and withdrawal”). Moderation of alcohol intake can slow the progression of alcoholism, but the only effective treatment for alcoholism is abstinence.

Marijuana & Eating Disorders

Unknown-1It is estimated that approximately 10% of recreational marijuana users and up to 50% of daily marijuana users will become addicted – it becomes difficult to control use and there is an inability to stop despite serious consequences. With marijuana readily available and now its legalization in the state of Colorado, marijuana abuse and addiction is expected to increase. Those who are addicted experience withdrawal, with symptoms similar to nicotine withdrawal, including irritability, sleeping difficulties, craving and anxiety. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main active ingredient in marijuana, and its effects begin almost immediately as it enters the bloodstream (after smoking, eating or drinking the drug). As THC enters the brain, it causes the user to feel euphoric, by acting on the brain’s “pleasure center” and stimulating the release of dopamine. The flood of dopamine is what creates the addictive response, triggering the user to seek the same “high” again and again. Marijuana use impairs memory and the ability to learn new information, and chronic use can result in severe memory loss typically associated with age. Long-term marijuana use has also been linked to anxiety disorders, depressive disorders and schizophrenia. Individuals with eating disorders who also use marijuana typically report an increase in appetite and higher risk of binge eating. In conjunction with eating disorder treatment, marijuana abstinence is recommended. Meditation, mindfulness and relaxation techniques can be an effective substitute for marijuana use.

Prescription Drug Abuse & Eating Disorders

Unknown-2Pharmaceuticals may be prescribed by your doctor for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, pain, or many other conditions. Taken as prescribed, these medications can be an important part of healing and overall health. Prescription drug abuse involves the use of a medication for non-medical reasons – either without a prescription, or in any way other than as prescribed. There are three main classes of prescription drugs which are abused: narcotic painkillers (including Codeine, Morphine, Methadone, Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin), sedatives (barbituates such as Phenobarbital, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax, sleep medications such as Ambien and Lunesta) and stimulants (including Adderall and Ritalin). The risks for addiction to prescription drugs increases when taken at higher doses than prescribed, by different routes of administration, or combined with alcohol or other drugs. Treatment for prescription drug addiction depends on the type of drug, and referrals for detoxification and medication management are usually necessary. While abusing prescription drugs, certain eating disorder symptoms may seem to improve while others may worsen. As prescription drug abuse/addiction is treated, a specific focus is placed on the management of eating disorder behaviors, while the underlying causes of addiction are addressed.

Recreational Drugs & Eating Disorders

Unknown-3Recreational drug use often begins with the justification, “Everyone else is doing it, so it must be safe, and it looks like fun.” Drugs of choice include Ecstasy (MDMA), Special K (Ketamine), Liquid X (GHB), Acid (LSD), and most recently Bath Salts (designer drugs containing substituted cathinones). These drugs as well as cocaine, heroine and meth (Methamphetamine) are all highly addictive, because they target the brain’s “pleasure center” with a flood of dopamine. Many of these drugs also have an appetite suppressing effect, which can enhance the appeal of these drugs for those with eating disorders. When some drugs are taken, this triggers a release of up to 10 times the amount of dopamine associated with normal pleasurable activities. This overstimulation of the brain’s “pleasure center” produces euphoric effects, and teaches the drug user to repeat the behavior. With ongoing drug abuse, the brain adjusts to the overwhelming surges in dopamine, which leads to a lack of pleasure derived from activities which used to bring joy, and an increased frequency of drug use in larger quantities to obtain a pleasurable effect. Risk factors of drug abuse and addiction include heart attack, stroke, brain damage, coma and death. Malnourishment from anorexia or bulimia can increase these risks, making eating disorders and drugs a lethal combination.

Sex Addiction & Eating Disorders

images-2Sex can be a healthy part of a relationship, but sex can sometimes be a harmful addictive behavior. Many people with sex and relationship addictions fear rejection or being alone — they seek others for validation and approval. These relationships may be emotionally, physically or sexually abusive. Eating disorder symptoms are often used as a means of coping with relationship abuse. Relationship addictions can sometimes lead to promiscuity and sex addictions, where “sex equals love.” Promiscuity often triggers an increase in anorexic and bulimic behaviors, in efforts to conform to perceived sexual ideals. Psychology Today reports that “sex addicts lack the ability to control or postpone sexual feelings and actions, with the need for arousal often replacing the need for intimacy. Eventually, thrill seeking becomes more important than family, career, even personal health and safety.” Treatment for sex addiction involves skills-building for the development of relationship intimacy, and often includes couples counseling. Body image therapy can be extremely helpful to concurrently heal promiscuity and eating disorder triggers.

Shopping & Other Behavioral Addictions

images-6Many people enjoy shopping, whether in stores or browsing online. The process of shopping and purchasing items can create an uplifted mood, and many people refer to shopping as “retail therapy.”  Shopping behaviors might seem like good alternatives to eating disorder behaviors. However, shopping can be addicting — and it can often lead to serious debt, financial crises or bankruptcy. CBS News reports that for nearly 13 million American adults, shopping can become an addiction that requires therapy. In addition to shopping, gambling is another example of an addictive behavior which involves money. Sometimes people hide their spending from their loved ones which can cause distance and turbulence in relationships. Although shopping can be a temporary escape from challenging issues, and can serve as an alternative to eating disorder behaviors, effective treatment involves finding healthy coping mechanisms instead. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) techniques for impulse control and distress tolerance have been found to be highly effective for behavioral addictions, including co-occurring eating disorders.

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I might be an Alcoholic or Addict and I need help…

What substance or behavior is problematic for you?
Are you experiencing any medical or legal consequences?
Do you also struggle with some type of eating disorder?
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eating disorders and alcoholism


Eating Disorders, Alcoholism or Other Addictions: Your Customized Treatment Plan

At Positive Pathways, we believe that complete recovery from Eating Disorders, Alcoholism or Other Addictions is possible! With chemical addictions such as Alcoholism, the primary treatment goal is drug abstinence.  But what about food?  You have to eat to live.  So how can you focus on alcohol or drug abstinence, without turning to Binge Eating, Bulimia or Anorexia as an addiction replacement?  To assist you with alcohol or drug abstinence while concurrently addressing your eating disorder, our Treatment Team will customize an Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy (EDIT)™ treatment plan for you, which may include a 1-on-1 Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).  We can also partner with Addiction Treatment Centers, 12-Step Programs, Women for Sobriety, LifeRing, or other abstinence-based support.

In addition, we have a Weekly Support Group for Eating Disorders, Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (see flyer, LEFT). You’ll learn specific nutrition strategies to support healing from alcohol and drug addictions, while using intuitive eating skills to manage or prevent eating disorders. You’ll discover how to have healthy control of factors in your life which may seem out of control. You’ll replace your addictive behaviors with your own unique Intuitive Self-Care techniques, to feed yourself from within. Are you ready to begin your journey of recovery, from a place of compassionate Self-Love, seeing your wholeness beyond the symptoms of your eating disorder, alcoholism and other addictions?

YES!!! we do...

  • Use a treatment model of Alcohol/Drug Abstinence
  • Provide nutrition strategies to support addiction recovery
  • Teach Intuitive Eating skills for eating disorder behaviors
  • Explore the root cause of all addictive behaviors
  • Partner with medical doctors or other support as needed

NO!!! we don't...

  • Provide medical detox or work with severe addictions
  • Use an “abstinence” model for eating disorders treatment
  • Suggest meal plans as a way to “control” eating behaviors
  • Require a 12-Step group (alternative support is available)
  • Work with chronic drug relapse (referrals are available)

Get started TODAY on your POSITIVE PATHWAYS of Recovery!

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