Eating Disorders, Drinking and Drug Use

Substance abuse can coincide with eating disorders

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Girls with eating disorders could be at risk for other adverse behaviors. Some eating disorders have gone unnoticed because these girls binge or purge just under diagnostic criteria.

A recent study found that binge drinking and drug use affected some girls with eating disorders. Results also suggested that eating disorders could predict risky behavior.

"Talk to your doctor if you are binging or purging."

Alison E. Field, ScD, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, led an investigation into whether drinking and drug use were associated with eating disorders.

The study participants were taken from the ongoing Growing Up Today Study. There were 8,594 females aged 9 to 15, starting in 1996 and they were given annual questionnaires through 2001.

Approximately 1 percent of the group was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, 2-3 percent had a purging disorder and another 2-3 percent had a binge eating disorder.

Girls with a binge eating disorder were twice as likely to be overweight or obese and/or depressed.

Girls with purging disorders were found to have a high risk of binge drinking (1.8 times as likely as non-purgers) and drug use (1.7 times as likely).

The authors said, “Primary care clinicians should be made aware of these disorders, which may be underrepresented in eating disorder clinic samples. Efforts to prevent eating disorders should focus on cases of subthreshold severity.”

Meaning, some girls slip through the cracks because their eating disorders are not severe enough to get anyone’s attention.

These cases that are just under the diagnostic line are important to catch due to the dangers that binge eating, purging, drug use and binge alcohol drinking can cause.

A binge eating disorder, purging disorder or bulimia nervosa that occurs less than once per week or less than once per month may go unnoticed.

This does not mean that these disorders are not dangerous just because they aren’t a daily issue. These disorders are still harmful and can still lead to other adverse behaviors.

This study was published in July in Pediatrics. Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, and no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 25, 2012
Last Updated:
March 18, 2013