Loss of Control: Food, Drugs & Depression

Binge eating was associated with higher rates of obesity drug use and depressive symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Binge eating may be a predictor of marijuana and other drug use and depression. The good news is binge eating can be successfully treated.

A recent study followed 16,882 boys and girls for over 10 years. Researchers found overeating and binge eating were linked to marijuana and other drugs use, but binge eating alone was linked to overweight and obesity and depression.

Neither were linked to binge drinking.

"Get help now for binge eating disorder."

Kendrin R. Sonneville, ScD, RD, from Boston Children’s Hospital, led a team to investigate binge eating in association with binge drinking and drug use. For the study, 16,882 boys and girls participating in the Growing Up Today Study were recruited in 1996 and followed until 2007. Each participant was between the ages of 9-15 at the beginning of the study and filled out a follow-up questionnaire every 12-24 months until the end of the study.

The difference between overeating and binge eating has to do with loss of control. At some time or another, most people will overeat, but will do so without losing control of their consumption.

Binge eating, on the other hand, is rooted in an inability to control one’s actions. There is no appetite or hunger being sated, rather a compulsion to continue eating.

Authors said, “[F]indings suggest that loss of control is an important indicator of severity of overeating episodes.”

The final result of study showed that, between the ages of 16-14, girls were more prone to binge eating at 2.3 percent to 3.1 percent compared to boys at 0.3 percent to 1 percent.

At the start of the study, 22 percent were obese, 4 percent binge drank, 12 percent used marijuana and 9 percent used other drugs.

By the end of the study, 31 percent were overweight or obese, 60 percent binge drank, 41 percent used marijuana and 32 percent used other drugs.

Between 1999-2007, 23 percent had developed high levels of depressive symptoms. Binge eating predicted overweight or obesity with an odds ration of 1.73 and high depressive symptoms with an odds ration of 2.19.

Binge eating did not appear to influence the start of frequent binge drinking, nor did overeating. Binge eating and overeating was predictive of the start of using marijuana and other drugs.

Authors concluded, “Although any overeating, with or without loss of control, predicted the onset of marijuana and other drug use, we found that binge eating is uniquely predictive of incident overweight/obesity and the onset of high depressive symptoms.”

Authors recommended, “Given that binge eating is uniquely predictive of some adverse outcomes and because previous work has found that binge eating is amenable (positively responds) to intervention, clinicians should be encouraged to screen adolescents for binge eating.”

Both school and community-based intervention efforts against binge eating were recommended by study authors to prevent eating disorders and obesity.

A limitation of the study included a lack of diversity. All of the participants were children of nurses and 90 percent were white. This study was published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Funding was supported by the National Institutes of Health. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 12, 2012
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013