Striving for skinny: exploring weight control as motivation for illicit stimulant use
There is a growing trend among community samples of young, adult women to initiate drug use for weight loss (Boys, Marsden, & Strang, 2001; Mendieta-Tan, Hulbert-Williams, & Nicholls, 2013). Research has suggested that consequential weight loss may maintain drug use (Cohen, et al., 2010; Ersche, Stochl, Woodward, & Fletcher, 2013; Sirles, 2002), which is compounded by women's perception that drugs are convenient and guarantee weight loss (Mendieta-Tan, et al., 2013). Stimulants, including cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy, are notable drugs of use among college students (Johnston, et al., 2014; Teter, McCabe, LaGrange, Cranford, & Boyd, 2006). With known appetitive and metabolic effects, stimulants may be particularly attractive to college women, who are at elevated risk for increased body dissatisfaction and experimenting with extreme weight loss techniques (Grunewald, 1985; National Eating Disorder Association, 2013). A preliminary epidemiological study of 130 college women between 16- and 24-years old (Mage = 18.76, SDage = 1.09) was conducted to begin to investigate this phenomenon. Results showed women who reported use for weight control (n = 19, 14.6 %) predominantly used stimulants (68.4%), and this subgroup was severely elevated on global and subscales of eating pathology compared with college norms. Moreover, the odds of stimulant use were doubled when women engaged in a compensatory behavior, such as excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, and laxative use. Although preliminary, these results suggest that a desire for weight control may be associated with stimulant use among college women. Women engaging in more extreme weight loss behaviors are at high risk for initiating and maintaining illicit stimulant use for weight-related reasons.