Laxatives Can Be Dangerous, and So Can Thinstagram
Last month, a friend sent me a link to a United Press International article about how the improper use of laxatives can cause serious complications (and even death). She did it because I undergo frequent colonoscopies for colon cancer surveillance, and she wanted to remind me (for about the 10th time) to drink lots of water during the laxative prep to avoid kidney damage.
A number of women use laxatives for less healthy reasons: to lose weight. Having an unrealistic body image can cause a host of problems; in December I posted on how some women find meth’s weight-loss properties attractive.
According to Dr. Mark Gold, MD, an addiction expert at the University of Florida in Gainesville, laxatives are more widely used than you may have thought. “Many people with eating disorders, addictions, constipation as a side effect of medications, or [due to their] diet or aging, take laxatives. While over-the-counter [laxatives and other medications like sleeping medications] are safe, if they don’t work right away … [people shouldn’t] take another dose or doses.”
You can actually find articles on the web titled “Best Laxatives to Lose Weight,” but a Livestrong article warns that trying to lose weight this way is not only a dangerous process, it means the people who do it are making “an uneducated decision.” Abusing them can “severely damage the gastrointestinal system, cause long-term side effects,” and lead to addiction. And anyway, the article points out, it’s mostly just water weight that you lose.
Eating disorders can be part part of a dual diagnosis women receive when they finally decided to enter a treatment center, often because of using meth or taking pills, for example. And they’re a perfect segue into an article called “Thinstagram: Inside the Terrifying World of Instagram’s Eating Disorder Community,” written by a colleague of mine.
If even I have heard about this site or others like it, then I’m sure many people in the recovery community have, too. It’s hard to believe that these sites or “communities,” which glorify people’s attempts to become unhealthily thin exist, but they do. Instagram says it bans groups like this (as do Pinterest and Tumblr, the article says), but the author found them.
Instagram is part of Facebook, in case you were wondering. Or, as my colleague explains, “After years of the thinspiration movement gaining steam on other social networking platforms (perhaps most broadly on Tumblr), users started flocking to the Facebook-owned, insanely popular photo-sharing community Instagram because of its mostly private atmosphere.”
He also has this statement at the top of his article: Warning: This article contains discussions of eating disorders, self-harm, cutting, and graphic photos, which may be a post-traumatic or other trigger for some readers. I’m not sure if the photos could be an actual trigger for women with an eating disorder, or that could be called sensationalism on his part, but I’d like to think he checked with an addiction expert about that. Some of the girls he interviewed for the article were 14, and I’ve read anorexia can start even younger.