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Drug abuse a concern in women with eating disorders

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, July 7 (Reuters) Women who have eating disorders often abuse amphetamines, cocaine and other illicit drugs, new research indicates.

''Drug abuse in women with eating disorders is an area of clinical concern and should be monitored routinely throughout the treatment process,'' advise clinicians who report their findings in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

The investigators interviewed 136 women with anorexia nervosa and 110 with bulimia nervosa who were assessed for a drug use disorder every 6 to 12 months for about 9 years.

A total of 42 (17 per cent) patients had a history of illicit drug use, Dr David B Herzog of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and colleagues report.

It is ''of interest,'' they say, that 19 of these women -- 4 of 22 with anorexia and 6 of 20 with bulimia -- started abusing illicit drugs for the first time during the study period.

''Although the absolute numbers are small, these data suggest that the risk for drug use disorder in women with eating disorders continues over time and should be an ongoing part of assessment for these patients,'' the investigators write.

It's also noteworthy, they say, that of the 19 women whose drug use disorder began during the study, 12 (63.2 per cent) had an episode of major depression and 6 (31.6 per cent) had a diagnosis of hypomania.

Mood disorders were more likely to occur in participants with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa who also had a drug disorder onset, which confirms earlier studies that have linked mood isorders, eating disorders and substance abuse, Herzog's group reports.

Cocaine, amphetamines, and marijuana were the most commonly abused drugs.

''These data indicate that clinicians should take a careful history of drug use when assessing substance use in patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa,'' the authors conclude.


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