Substance Abuse BLOG

Being physically attractive can win someone a lot of favors. Whether you just want to be popular at school, land a prestigious job or get promoted at work, how you look in the outside carries some weight as to whether or not you will achieve your heart's desires. This is precisely one of the major reasons why many teenagers resort to crash diets, take weight loss supplements or use steroids -- all for the call of physical beauty.

What is Low Self-Esteem?

An October 2012 campus survey conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that 27.8 percent of female undergraduates, 11.8 percent of male undergraduates, 21.5 percent of female graduate students, and 10.3 percent of male graduate students on campus had eating disorders. More than 80 percent of women and 96 percent of men who were struggling with an eating disorder had not received treatment in the past year.

The researchers found that students who diet regularly dislike their bodies, fear gaining weight and seldom seek help for eating disorders. But if you think the problem stops there, think again, because eating disorders can be a culprit in a person's substance abuse problems.

The 2003 study, titled Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders, conducted by The National Center on Addictions and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that people 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 more likely to have eating disorders.

High school girls with eating disorders are at greater risk to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use drugs than those without eating disorders. Similarly, girls who smoke, drink or use drugs are at higher risk to report past month eating disorder symptoms than those who do not have substance abuse issues.

Which Drugs Suppress Appetite?

The study concluded that individuals with eating disorders abuse caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin and over-the-counter medications such as diuretics, emetics or laxatives to suppress appetite, increase metabolism and purge themselves.

Marci Warhaft, the woman behind Fit vs. Fiction, knows exactly what makes kids today so obsessed with their appearance and the need to look good.

"It seems like you can’t flip open a magazine or turn on the TV without being inundated with images of impossibly beautiful, seemingly flawless women," Warhaft explained. "As a result, so many young girls feel like they just don’t measure up and become desperate to change the way they look, even at the risk of damaging their health through risky weight loss behaviors. The same goes for the boys. I hear from boys as young as nine years old who are completely ashamed of their bodies because they don’t have the chiseled abs or bulging bicep muscles they see on actors on tv or at the movies."

It's common knowledge that many boys who want to beef up their bodies would rather take the easy route, that is, using anabolic steroids. But while steroids really help in improving strength and muscles, they are also associated with negative side effects, such as baldness, increased risk of prostate cancer, infertility, acne, bloated appearance, swelling of feet and ankles, and penile enlarged, to name a few. That's not all; steroids users may eventually experience depression, irritability, anxiety, delusions, and other psychological problems.

Warhaft emphasized the importance of fostering a healthy environment at home. She said parents and children should be able to discuss weight issues at home as openly and honestly as possible. Encouraging the kids to become physically active is also a good way to help kids maintain a HEALTHY look as opposed to the kind of appearance they see among movie stars. Parents need to also exert caution and opt for steroid testing or home drug test kits to keep their kids healthy and sober.

"Our fitness goals shouldn’t be about fitting into skinny jeans or a string bikini, but should be about FEELING strong and healthy," Warhaft added. "We need to get our kids involved in activities that help them appreciate the amazing things their bodies can DO, so they won’t become preoccupied with how they look."