Medications to Treat Binge Eating Disorder

If you have binge eating disorder, your doctor might recommend a prescription medication as part of your treatment.

When Is Medication Used?

Cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling are usually the first steps in treating the disorder. (CBT is usually better than medication alone.) But sometimes doctors recommend medications and therapy together. Your doctor might prescribe medication alone if therapy isn’t working or available to you.

Binge eating disorder can happen along with other mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. If you have one of these conditions, treating it with certain medications might help against your bingeing, too.

Types of Medicines

Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse) is the first FDA-approved drug to treat binge eating disorder in adults. It's also used to treat ADHD. It is not clear how the drug works in binge eating, but it’s thought to control the impulsive behavior that can lead to bingeing. In studies, patients who took the medicine had fewer episodes of binge eating.

Sometimes, doctors will prescribe a drug for binge eating disorder not specifically approved to treat it. This is called "off-label" prescribing, and it's a common and accepted practice.

These drugs include:

Antidepressants . They target brain chemicals that help control your mood. Boosting your mood may help against binges. Studies show that the following kinds of antidepressant medications might help:

Certain anti-seizure drugs can help some people stop bingeing, too. Topiramate (Topamax) might work better for binge eating than antidepressants, but it can cause serious side effects (like problems with memory), and it isn't considered a medicine that helps mood symptoms.

What's on the Horizon?

Researchers continue to look for new binge eating treatments. Experts say that anti-addiction drugs might one day help:

Some doctors and scientists hope that weight loss drugs might one day help stop bingeing. The ones available can help people lose weight, but they don’t work very well for bingeing. There are also concerns over some of the side effects. That’s why eating disorder specialists usually don’t prescribe them for this condition.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 08, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Binge Eating Disorder: Treatment and Drugs.”

McElroy, S. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, May 2012.

American Psychiatric Association annual meeting, May 6, 2014, New York.

Jennifer J. Thomas, PhD, co-director, Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; assistant professor of psychology, Harvard Medical School.

UpToDate: “Binge Eating Disorder in Adults: Overview of Treatment.”

FDA: “FDA expands uses of Vyvanse to treat binge-eating disorder.”

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