Young binge eaters more likely to abuse drugs

binge eatingYoung people who binge eat or are prone to overeating are more likely to abuse drugs, according to a new study.

Research published online in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine followed the lives of 16,882 boys and girls between the ages of nine to 15 years old in 1996 as part of a Growing Up Today study.

Every 12 to 24 months between this time and 2005, the youngsters surveyed about their overeating and binge eating habits.

Questionnaires distributed by researchers also enquired about the use of drugs including marijuana, hashish, cocaine, crack, ecstasy, heroin, PCP, GHB, LSD, ketamine, psychedelic mushrooms, crystal meth, amphetamines and prescription drugs.

After collating the information, they found that girls were more likely to binge eat than boys, with 2.3 to 3.1 per cent admitting to doing so.

This was in stark contrast to the 0.3 to one per cent of males exhibiting this behaviour.

A binge eater can be defined as an individual who finds it difficult to control how much they are eating, often consuming between two and six times the daily recommended food intake.

It is common for binge eaters to snack in addition to eating three meals a day, with many also suffering from the eating disorder bulimia, which involves purging afterwards.

On the other hand, overeating refers to when a person consumes too much, but is capable of controlling what they eat.

Of those who admitted to overeating and binge eating, they were 1.59 to 1.89 times more likely to also abuse drugs.

Binge eaters in particular were almost twice as likely to be overweight and doubly prone to showing depressive symptoms.

The authors of the study wrote: "In summary, we found that binge eating, but not overeating, predicted the onset of overweight/obesity and worsening depressive symptoms. We further observed that any overeating, with or without LOC [loss of control], predicted the onset of marijuana and other drug use."

However, perhaps surprisingly, neither overeaters or binge eaters were shown to be more likely to be bingedrinkers. In fact, 60 per cent reported this behaviour.

Kendrin Sonneville, a registered dietician in the division of adolescent/young adult medicine at Children's Hospital Boston, who was involved with the research, told HealthDay that this was actually to be expected.

"The fact that we didn't see an association between binge eating and the onset of frequent binge drinking may have something to do with the fact that this behaviour is so normative among teens," she claimed.

Problems associated with control or a lack thereof, such as binge drinking and binge eating, have often been considered to be linked.

This is due to the likely presence of underlying emotional and psychological issues, with people frequently displaying addictive behaviour towards more than one substance, including alcohol, food and drugs.

Professional treatment can help to ascertain the root of these addictions or unhealthy behaviours, assessing individual motives and developing personalised recovery plans.

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