By Michelle Castillo

Young people who binge eat or overeat are more likely to abuse illicit drugs, according to a new study published online Dec. 10 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

A binge eater is defined as a person who eats more than they normally would during a short period of time and can’t control how much they eat. They can consume 5,000 to 15,000 calories in one sitting, and often snack in addition to eating three meals in a day. People who binge eat are at risk of being overweight and may also suffer from the eating disorder bulimia.

Overeating on the other hand refers to when a person consumes too much but is capable of controlling food intake.

For the study, researchers looked at 16,882 boys and girls between the ages of 9 to 15 years old in 1996. They were all part of the ongoing Growing Up Today Study. Every 12 to 24 months between 1996 and 2005, the children were surveyed about their overeating and binge eating habits. The questionnaires also asked about use of drugs including marijuana, hashish, cocaine, crack, heroin, ecstasy, PCP, GHB, LSD, psychedelic mushrooms, ketamine, crystal meth, amphetamines and prescription drugs.

Girls were more likely to binge eat than boys, with 2.3 to 3.1 percent of female participants reporting this behavior. Only 0.3 percent to 1 percent of males reported binge eating.

Those who admitted to overeating or binge eating were 1.59 to 1.89 times more likely to abuse drugs. Binge eaters — not overeaters — were also 1.73 times more likely to be overweight or obese and 2.19 times more likely to show depressive symptoms.

“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,” the authors wrote.

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