Abusive Substances

Abuse of Laxatives, Diuretics, Diet Pills and Compulsive Exercising

LAXATIVES

Laxative abuse is defined as a use (or overuse) of laxatives over a long period of time, as a means of weight control. Laxative abuse is most common among bulimics (although not exclusively) as a way of purging. There are two main types of laxatives: stimulant laxatives and bulk-forming laxatives. Stimulant laxatives irritate the colon to induce bowel movements (and are not recommended for use greater than one week) and bulk-forming laxatives add mass and volume to the bowel movement. Continual overstimulation of the intestines from laxative abuse can eventually cause the bowels to become non-responsive. Laxatives DO NOT help you lose weight.

Reasons for laxative abuse are:

  • To get rid of food before it can be properly digested. In reality, it doesn't really happen. The body already absorbs all the nutrients and calories from the food before it is excreted. Laxatives work near the lower end of the bowel, and do not alter the way that food (and calories) are absorbed by the body.
  • To empty the body, rid one self, and/or purify one self.
  • They become addictive. The sufferer is aware that these are no weight loss benefits, but still continue to take them.
  • A method of coping with stress, anger, feelings of rejection, etc.
  • A psychological safety net to fall back on if other methods of weight loss fail.

Over a period of time, laxatives lose their effectiveness and actually start working against you. Some of the adverse side effects of laxative abuse include:

  • SEVERE abdominal pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea (which can occur while sleeping in extreme abuse situations)
  • Dehydration
  • Stomach Ulcers
  • Constipation
  • Fluid Retention/bloating (especially in your hands, feet, ankles, face and stomach)
  • Development of blood in stools which leads to anemia
  • Renal Stones
  • Severe electrolyte, fluid and mineral imbalances
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Malabsorption, which can cause anemia and bone abnormalities
  • Death

DIURETICS

Diuretics come in a pill form, as do stimulant laxatives, and they are used to rid the body of fluid. They act on the kidneys to increase the flow of urine. They are NOT intended for weight loss. Actually, they only reduce the amount of water in the body, and water in the body is vital for the appropriate functioning of all systems. Anorexics, bulimics, and some binge eaters use them as a "quick fix," an attempt to control weight, or to lose weight. However, if diuretics are misused, there is a high risk of developing several serious side effects.

Some adverse side effects of diuretic abuse include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Potassium Deficiency
  • Electrolyte Imbalance
  • Kidney Damage
  • Cardiac Arrhythmia
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Fluid Retention
  • Nausea
  • Death

DIET PILLS

Both prescription and over the counter (OTC) are one of the most dangerous and unhealthy ways to lose weight. The scariest of aspect of (OTC) diet pills is that they are readily available in grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, health food stores, etc to everyone, including children and teens. Similar to other addictions, individuals will start to take the pills as recommended, but may then start abusing them and become dependent on them. Natural (herbal) diet pills are just as dangerous and are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. All diet pills, whether prescriptions or OTC, act as a stimulant to the Central Nervous System, and can lead to the development of very serious and dangerous side effects.

Some adverse side effects of diet pill abuse include:

  • Headaches
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Shallow Breathing
  • Blurred Vision
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions/Seizures
  • Fatigue
  • Chest Pains
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Menstrual Irregularities
  • Death

COMPULSIVE EXERCISE

Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as too much exercise. Compulsive exercise is another way to "purge" calories, and can be as dangerous as anorexia and bulimia. The main goal when an individual is suffering from compulsive exercise can be burning calories, relieving the guilt from eating/binging, or to give them the permission to eat. The exercise may give the person a sense of control, power, and self-respect. Most over-exercise is done IN SECRET and away from prying eyes, and can also be a form of punishment.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Working out with an injury or if the individual is sick.
  • The individual may feel tremendously guilty/seriously depressed if he or she cannot exercise.
  • Find time, no matter at what expense, to do the exercise (i.e. missing work, skipping school, missing parties, hiding in the bathroom, and skipping appointments).
  • Not giving himself/herself any "rest days," or "recovery days" between workouts.
  • Working at out hours at a time, beyond what can be considered safe or healthy.

There are serious side effects associated with Compulsive Exercise:

  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Injuries such as shin splints, strains and sprains, cartilage and ligament damage, and stress fractures
  • Fractured Bones
  • Osteoporosis
  • Degenerative Arthritis
  • Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle)
  • Reproductive Problems
  • Heart Problems