Study Links Youth Drug Use and Overeating (12/11/12)

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A newly released study has found that youth who engage in binge eating are more likely to use drugs.  A survey of close to 17,000 youth conducted by Boston Children’s Hospital found a link between overeating, including binge eating and the onset of marijuana and other illicit drug use.

"Physicians and parents should be aware that both overeating and binge eating are quite common in adolescents, and these problems put them at risk for other problems, such as drug use," said Kendrin Sonneville, the study's lead author from Boston Children's Hospital.

While the study does not conclusively cite that one behavior leads to the other, it does infer that one can be a warning sign for the other.

Dr. Sonneville’s team used data from a large study of 16,882 kids and teens, initially between age nine and 15, who filled out health-related questionnaires every year or two between 1996 and 2005.

At any point during that time, up to one percent of boys and up to three percent of girls said they binged regularly. Those rates were reversed - about three percent of boys and one percent of girls - among kids who over-ate without loss of control.

During the study period, 41 percent of youths started using marijuana and 32 percent used other illicit drugs. Kids and teens who had reported overeating on surveys were 2.7 times more likely to start using marijuana or other drugs, and binge eaters were 1.9 times more likely to take up drugs.

The findings were published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.   

Researchers have thought teens that lose control while eating might also be at risk for other impulsive behaviors, such as drug use, Sonneville said. But her findings showed any kids who overate - whether they reported losing control or not - were more likely to start experimenting with drugs.

It's not clear yet why that might be the case.

But overeating without loss of control wasn't tied to obesity, so, Sonneville said, it's important to know that eating too much can be a problem for reasons other than weight, and that extra weight isn't the only sign of worrisome eating.

"It may be easy to overlook eating problems in normal-weight or healthy-weight kids," she said.

"We need to think about eating habits even before they maybe affect a kid's weight, but realize these may be a risk factor for other problems down the road."

Source: Reuters Health