CHICAGO, Jan. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Adolescents and young adults who overeat or binge eat are more likely to use illicit drugs. A recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine reports both binge eating and overeating predicted the onset of marijuana use and overeating predicted the onset of both marijuana and other drug use. Binge eating on the other hand, indicated the onset of obesity/overweight and depression symptoms.
"Once the brain's reward pathway is primed by the rewarding effects of repeated overeating or binge eating, the individual becomes more susceptible to getting hooked on the rewarding aspects of using illicit substances," said Kim Dennis MD, CEO and medical director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. "The loss of control aspect of each illness also likely reflects dysfunction in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that helps us to inhibit impulses and tolerate delayed gratification."
Dr. Dennis notes earlier studies showed a similar relationship with binge eating and dieting preceding drug use in adolescents, but the studies were not as large as the recent one.Early intervention and treatment by professionals who are cross-trained in treating both eating disorders and substance abuse are critical to recovery. In addition, integrated treatment is more likely to be successful in the long term. "Building a strong support network, including others who are sober in their relationship with both food and substances, is essential in order to develop lifelong recovery," adds Dr. Dennis. In addition, Dr. Dennis notes the importance of the study in highlighting the connection between the abuse of illicit substances and abuse of food, a legal substance which many don't consider a substance of abuse. The study is also in line with the emerging neurobiological research that suggests similar areas of the brain, such as reward pathways and the prefrontal cortex, are involved in both food and substance abuse.