What Causes Weight Loss?
In today’s physique-obsessed society, many people work extremely hard to lose weight. For others, however, weight loss (potentially to a dangerous degree) is a side-effect of substance abuse and addiction, which can have a catastrophic impact on their physical and mental well-being.
What Is Weight Loss?
Weight loss is a self-explanatory term referring to a person’s loss of body mass in the form of fluid, body fat, or lean mass (muscles, bone matter, and tendons and other connective tissue). The term is not used to describe surgical interventions which may reduce a person’s actual weight.
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What Causes Weight Loss?
A person’s weight loss may be intentional – e.g. achieved through a combination of exercise and the consumption of fewer calories; or through bariatric surgical procedures such as gastric bypass and gastric banding.
Weight loss can also be unintentional: many illnesses can lead to (sometimes very significant, and potentially dangerous) weight loss as a result of decreased appetite, a physical inability to eat, impaired digestion, excessive loss of nutrients and changes to the metabolism.
Some people find themselves in situations where, although not ill, they are unable to acquire the needed calories to maintain their weight. Prisoners of war, people lost in the wilderness or at sea, victims of kidnapping or human trafficking, may all experience unintentional weight loss. But in danger of unintentional weight loss are also those engaged in prolonged substance abuse and/or those who suffer from addiction.
Weight Loss as an Addiction Symptom
People addicted to some drugs may experience pronounced weight loss for a variety of reasons. They may regularly be too intoxicated to remember to eat; the drugs may suppress their appetite, or make it hard to keep food down (nausea is a frequent consequence of drug use). Addicts may be unable to afford the proper amount of food and engage in a great deal of physical activity (for example sex, dancing or sport) while not consuming the appropriate calories.
When addicted, people may also suffer from illnesses (whether or not related to their drug use) which cause weight loss and go untreated because of addiction; or they may develop further mental disorders which impact upon weight. Most obviously this refers to eating disorders, although a great many other disorders are associated with addiction.
What Are the Symptoms of Weight Loss?
Weight loss is self-symptomatic (i.e. the name of the condition describes its symptom).It can be most accurately observed through actual measurement. However, in the more severe cases, it will be easily noticeable. Weight loss can also cause or be related to other problems such as malnutrition, which may be identified either visually or through a clinical assessment.
How Is Weight Loss Diagnosed?
Again, weight loss is its own diagnosis; however, doctors may see it as symptomatic, and use it in the diagnosis, of a host of other conditions, including various addictions.
How Is Weight Loss Treated?
Because weight loss is typically related to the consumption of insufficient or inadequate food, changes in diet are an obvious treatment. In urgent cases of extreme weight loss, an immediate return to normal eating patterns can have a catastrophic impact, so the patient may need to be fed by other means such as intranasal (through the nose) or even intravenous administration of nutrients until a certain weight has been reached.
Doctors may recommend a reduction in or cessation of activity which contributes to weight loss (such as exercise), normally only until the patient has recovered to a healthy weight. If the weight loss is a consequence of illness, clearly, that illness needs to be treated as a priority. Similarly, if it results from substance abuse and addiction, the habitual abuse, use or dependence needs to be addressed with a holistic treatment programme, potentially provided in residential rehabilitation.
Ready to Get Help for Your Addiction?
If you are struggling with an addiction, and have lost a significant amount of weight, you need to seek help immediately. Only you can take the first step towards recovery. If you’re able to acknowledge your condition, you are ready to get the help you need.
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Don’t let another day of addiction and health damage go by: contact your GP and/or an addiction specialist to discuss treatment options available to you.
Take control of your life – get started on the road to recovery
There are a host of facilities and organisations across the country which can help you combat your addiction and get back to a healthy weight. Take back control of your life, and make that call to your GP or an addiction specialist – and take the first steps on the path back to happiness.
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