ADHD Drug Vyvanse A Possible Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

The drug Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) is a commonly-used drug for patients with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It is the only drug approved in the United States to treat the psychiatric disorder. However, recent research is looking at possible ways to expand the utility of the popular drug. A recent preliminary study reported by Web MD has suggested that the ADHD treatment has the potential to work in binge eating disorder.

Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has recently joined ranks with Anorexia Nervosa (AN) and Bulimia Nervosa (BN) as an “official” eating disorder in the latest DSM-5. It is characterized by insatiable cravings that can occur any time of the day or night. Bingeing is often rooted in poor body image and is linked to maladaptive behaviors such as when people consume food to deal with stress or low self-esteem. Previous studies have also tied the eating disorder with dysfunctional thoughts.

Dr. James Mitchell, co-author of the study and president of the Neuropsychiatric Research Institute in Fargo, North Dakota, says the most commonly used medications for binge eating are epilepsy drugs. Mitchell did not deny the efficacy of these drugs in helping patients eat well and cut down on weight. However, Mitchell expressed concern over side effects that can occur during long-term use.

“Their side effect profiles are not great, with their impact on cognitive impairment in particular making them difficult for many patients to tolerate,” Mitchell said.

In their study, the researchers tracked outcomes among roughly 260 patients with moderate to severe binge-eating disorder between 2011 and 2012.

All of the participants were between 18- and 55-years-old, and none had diagnoses of any additional psychiatric disorders, such as ADHD, anorexia, or bulimia.

The volunteers were divided into four groups for 11 weeks. The first group received 30 milligrams (mg) of Vyvanse daily, while the second and third groups started with 30 mg a day, increasing to 50 mg or 70 mg, respectively, within three weeks. A fourth group, the control set in the study, took inactive placebo pills.

On the 11th week, results showed that with low dosages, the drug did not appear to curb binge eating among participants from the first group. However, when higher doses of Vyvanse were taken, participants from the second and third groups experienced a significant drop in the number of days binged each week compared with the placebo group. The researchers found that while only about one-fifth of those treated with a placebo were able to stay binge-free for a month, the figures with the second and third group were more promising, with 42 percent and 50 percent among the 50 and 70 mg drug groups, respectively, showing binge-free behaviors.

Although some psychiatrists saw Vyvanse as a groundbreaking treatment for binge eating disorder, other specialists and professionals argue that the drug might not be such a good option.

Suzanne Mazzeo, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, commented, “To my mind, psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy, is preferable as it aims to help patients develop the crucial skills they need to better handle all the triggers in our environment that may otherwise pull them into a cycle of excessive eating.”

Others have noted that the drug, observed to be “highly addictive” in particular cases, might bring about certain side effects like heart conditions and stroke.

Further studies on the safety and effectiveness of binge-eating disorder drugs are ongoing. Researchers are hopeful that the benefits of Vyvanse will outweigh its side effects, and that the drug will offer a way to help people suffering from eating disorders.

The 14-week study, reported in the January 14 online edition of JAMA Psychiatry, was funded by Shire Development, LLC, the manufacturer of Vyvanse.

[Image from pichumani/Flickr]