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Anorexia and bulimia and their relation to the consumption of drugs


The Pamplona-based psychologist, Margarita Aguinaga Aguinaga, has recently defended her PhD at the Public University of Navarre on her research work into eating behaviour disorders – such as anorexia and bulimia – and drug consumption.

This descriptive and analytical study was in fact based on the requests for assistance for eating behaviour disorders registered in a centre in Pamplona between 2000 and 2002. 90 women patients were studied of which 46.7% were diagnosed anorexic, 43.4% with bulimia and the remaining 10 % with other eating behaviour disorders.

Eating behaviour disorders and consumption of drugs

This is precisely the main part of the research carried out by Margarita Aguinaga: the relation between patients with eating behaviour disorders and consumption of drugs. The thesis points out the similitude between certain clinical aspects, cognitive and conductive, and common eating disorders and substances dependence.

The percentage of daily smokers has descended amongst the population in general over the last five years. Nevertheless, higher rates of nicotine dependence has appeared in those patients with eating behaviour disorders. And the same is happening with alcohol consumption. In brief, persons with eating behaviour disorders who, moreover, smoke and/or drink, do so in greater amounts than the rest of the population.

Regarding the consumption of illegal drugs, the proportion of patients that experiment with substances is less than the percentages amongst the general population, although in those cases of habitual consumption, higher rates are observed amongst patients than amongst the population at large, if we exclude cannabis or marihuana, the habitual consumption of which continues to be higher amongst the general population.

Spme authors, such as Fairburn, point out that eating disorders come about at a stage prior to drugs consumption. Nevertheless, in this research, it has been found that the consumption of alcohol and tobacco precedes the eating disorder, while consumption of drugs that are illegal is posterior.

In any case, M. Aguinaga’s study shows that bulemic persons are greater consumers of drugs than anorexic patients, and that the simultaneous presence of eating disorders and substances consumption is greater when social-family factors are more unfavourable and/or give rise to stressful factors: family violence, rejection by peers, school failure, etc.

Finally, and in this context, the researcher conclude that patients that consumed illegal drugs showed more imbalances in their dietary behaviour.

Iñaki Casado Redin | Basque research
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