What Are The Effects of Diuretic Misuse?

Diuretics are a class of drugs that promote diuresis, a process that increases the production and output of urine. The two most common ways to ingest a diuretic are via a medically prescribed pill or by drinking caffeinated beverages. Unfortunately, diuretic misuse is an increasingly common problem among people with eating disorders, especially people suffering from bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by binging and purging episodes.

What is Diuretic Misuse?

Because diuretics increase the amount of urine expelled by your body, people with eating disorders will often ingest large amounts of diuretics to temporarily increase the amount of water weight they lose on a daily basis.

While diuretic misuse can lead to quick weight loss, it’s important to remember that the effects are only temporary. In fact, long-term diuretic misuse can actually cause the body to retain more fluids, leading to bloating and weight gain. Unfortunately, people with eating disorders usually adjust for the short-term effectiveness of diuretics by cycling on/off and ingesting the drug multiple times in a day. For people with bulimia nervosa, diuretic abuse often replaces self-induced vomiting as a less detectable method of purging.

Effects of Diuretic Misuse?

Unsurprisingly, using diuretics as a purging tool is an extremely unhealthy practice. We’ve listed some of the most common side effects of diuretic abuse below:

  • Dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Very low blood pressure
  • Kidney damage
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Hypokalemia
  • Hypernatremia

Diuretic Abuse vs Laxative Misuse

While they are both common methods of purging, diuretic abuse and laxative misuse are two very different things. People with bulimia nervosa use laxatives to force stimulation in their large intestine, leading to larger and more frequent bowel movements. Like diuretic abuse, frequent use of laxatives can lead to quick weight loss, severe dehydration, and critically low electrolyte levels.

Treatment Options for Diuretic Misuse

Diuretic abuse in people with bulimia nervosa is a symptom rather than a cause. The first step towards breaking the cycle of substance abuse and purging is reaching out to a medical professional. After your eating disorder has been diagnosed and your physical condition has been assessed, a medical professional will likely refer you to a team of specialists.

A specialized eating disorder team is usually made up of a doctor, a psychologist or therapist, a certified dietician, and a psychiatrist. The treatment programs provided by eating disorder teams are customized to each patient’s needs and typically include physical health monitoring, dietary therapy, mental health counseling, and nutritional education.

Sources: Eating Disorder Hope, Schoen Clinic, Mayo Clinic

Photo: Pexels

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