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Binge Eaters Are More Likely to Use Drugs

Binge eating in young adults is linked to drug use, a study indicates—but not, surprisingly, to binge drinking.

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A warning sign? Ice creamviaShutterstock

By Valerie Tejeda

12/11/12

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Young adults who binge eat are more prone to using illicit drugs, a new study suggests. Researchers tracked the eating patterns of around 17,000 boys and girls, aged between nine and 16 when the study began, for a decade. They found that those who overate often were also more likely to experiment with marijuana and other illegal substances. "Previous research has demonstrated a link between overeating and binge eating and other health concerns, so most of the results were as we expected," says Kendrin Sonneville, a registered dietician at Children's Hospital Boston. She adds that although "it may seem that overeating and binge eating would only be a concern for individuals who are obese, this study shows that these behaviors are problematic for all kids. No matter what they weighed, teens who reported binge eating were more likely to start using drugs and to become depressed than those who did not binge eat." Emotional factors in common may be behind this link: "Most people might not make that connection between binge eating and drug use, but people often use food to address emotional states the same way they might use drugs," says registered dietician Lona Sandon. "They may be engaging in binge eating for a way to somehow improve their mood or...cover up negative emotions. That may be the same reason they also then turn to marijuana or some other drug." Perhaps surprisingly in the light of the other findings, binge eating wasn't found to be connected to binge drinking. “Based on the findings of this study alone, we can't explain why adolescents who overeat or binge aren't at higher risk for binge drinking," says Sonneville.

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