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Anorexia and cocaine addiction. Which do you treat first?

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answered 08:08 AM EST, Fri February 10, 2012
My 22 year old daughter called my wife and I to pick her up from a hospital emergency room 2 nights ago. When she called she had already been treated and was getting released and she was fine, but she had been scared that she was going to die. She was dropped off (by her so called ‘friends’ who didn’t stick around to see how she was doing) after she started having heart palpitations and she thought she was having a heart attack.

Some medication and time under observation was all the hospital treatment she needed because she started feeling better pretty quickly after the doctors started in with treatment. I was also left with the bill, which is OK when you are paying for your daughter’s lifesaving care, but it is illustrative of how I am often only called after the fact to pick up the pieces.

My daughter is a very beautiful girl who is starting to look like a skeleton. We have been trying to get her some help for what we feel is her obvious anorexia but we have not yet been able to get her to admit that she has a problem. On the drive home from the hospital she admitted that she had a problem with eating and she asked us to get her some help but said that her biggest problem was cocaine and said that she couldn’t stop using it on her own and that it was after using too much cocaine that she ended up in the hospital.

I feel like we have a window of opportunity here to get her into a treatment program and this is something we haven’t had for a while. But I am confused about what she needs. It seems to me that if a person has a cocaine addiction and an eating disorder that you have to treat the cocaine addiction first because you just don’t eat when you’re high on cocaine all the time. But some of what I am reading online seems to suggest that the eating disorder needs to be looked at first. I am confused. Should I look at sending her to a drug rehab which has services for people with mental health issues or to an eating disorders facility which offers substance abuse counseling…or to something else entirely?

William Anderson Says...

Don't try to figure it all out by yourself doing online research. It will take you years of real research to catch up with what professionals in Behavioral Medicine already know. Many treatment facilities deal with both eating disorders and addicitions and have thoroughly trained and experienced professionals who will know what to do as soon as you arrive. They will give your daughter and your whole family the safety, comfort and guidance you seek. Use your time and research talents during this window of opportunity to find such a treatment facility, make the calls, get in your car and go.  

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