Tag Archives: substance abuse

“Starving Themselves, Cocktail in Hand” – a discussion

The New York Times article, Starving Themselves, Cocktail in Hand, is about the trends of eating disorders affected by alcohol consumption. Not only are eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia problematic on their own, these and other disorders can have dramatic effects when combined with alcohol abuse. “Drunkorexia,” as the author unofficially terms the compound affect of alcohol on food disorders, affects mostly women in their college years who starve themselves to limit calorie intake while consuming those calories through alcohol.

According to the President of the National Eating Disorders Association, the media and images of celebrities are to blame for obsession with weight and therefore the disorders that come from improper nutrition and diet fads. In fact, eating disorders may be spurred psychologically by a need to numb some emotional pain. Manorexia, orthorexia, binge eating disorder and diabulimia are some examples of food ailments affecting many people today. Furthermore, according to a report written in 2003, up to 35 percent of alcohol or illicit drug abusers have eating disorders compared to three percent of the general population (Those With Eating Disorders Likelier To Abuse Alcohol And Drugs). A study published in Biological Psychiatry journal found that between 20 and 30 percent of anorexics and bulimics suffer from substance abuse as well. Rehab programs are not equipped to handle eating disorders that accompany alcohol or drug abuse, so the disorders persist even after much time and money is invested in clinical help.

Recently neuroscience explores the connection between drugs and food in how they have similar psychological effects on the brain. Food can function in the same way that alcohol and drugs do. This phenomenon typically affects women, who have an unhealthy appetite for food in the same way that they may crave alcohol. However, there is a twist in the treatment of the two problems, since cutting off food completely is not an option. Withdrawal from food has quite a different set of effects than that from alcohol: it’s fatal.

The author examines this new strain on the eating disorders by interviewing two women who have been affected by them. Both of these women have suffered from multiple eating disorders for a number of years, spending a large amount of money on food and healthcare. The personal revelations by these women strengthen the article. The reader can really see the extremities of such disorders and connect to the problem through the perspective of these women. This was an effective technique to stir some emotion from the audience. Today the two women are still struggling to have a normal outlook towards food, but they are being helped by centers that focus on disorders involving food and alcohol.

I had learned about eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia ever since taking a health ed. class in junior high, but I had no idea that they affected so many women and to such great lengths. Substance abuse brings the extent of such disorders to a different level, and it is important to note the correlation of the two. I also didn’t know that orthorexia, or obsession with eating healthy food, is a disorder that may lead to malnutrition. Nor did I think that diabetics may suffer from diabulimia, or refusal to take insulin in order to avoid weight gain. This is an informative article that should make us question why such a strain is becoming so popular. Perhaps more studies should be done to determine the reason behind so much pressure to look thin and how it may be eliminated. Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong in trying to be thin, but it must be done in a healthy manner. Even without having to obsess about organic food, eating the proper nutrients in moderation should do the trick.