use nicotine as a method of controlling their weight. Nicotine can be used in various ways as an appetite suppressant, including gum, patches, and cigarettes.
Warning Signs of Nicotine Abuse
Someone who may have an eating disorder or be using nicotine as an appetite suppressant may display the following symptoms:
- Excessive cigarette use
- Smoking or chewing nicotine gum in place of meals
- Restricting foods or avoiding entire food groups
- Avoiding social activities or functions involving food in order to smoke
- Ongoing smoking or nicotine use despite health problems
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop nicotine use
- Development of nicotine tolerance (needing more nicotine to achieve the same effect)
- Spending a considerable amount of time and money to obtain nicotine
- Taking nicotine in greater amounts than intended
- Weight loss and/or dangerous trends with one’s weight
- Anxiety, guilt or shame about eating
- Using nicotine as a way for compensating for eating
If you notice any of the following symptoms in someone close to you, it is important to stage an intervention through one of the following methods:
- psychotherapy with a behavioral health specialist
- eating disorder specialist and/or substance abuse counselor
- medical/nutritional care
If detected early, an intervention can prevent symptoms from worsening.
The issues caused by nicotine abuse combined with eating disorders may not always be apparent, but should be taken seriously because if they aren’t, deeper issues can arise.
Nagata adds that “young people who are struggling with their eating or substance use should seek help from a health professional. Clinicians should screen young people for disordered eating and substance use, especially during the pandemic.”