Why I’m worrying about Vyvanse and Binge Eating Disorder

Seeming quick fixes can be so tempting.
This week’s inbox held the following message from an old patient:

“I was watching Good Morning America and they had Monica Seles on, admitting she's suffered from binge eating disorder (BED). They announced a medication they are now using to treat BED, Vyvanse, also used for ADHD. I looked it up and side effects include weight loss. Have you ever recommended this drug for BED? Do you feel it is effective for BED? Can people with BED take this med to lose weight? Do they think if you have BED you must be overweight and this medication can cause weight loss? Which would perhaps (in their minds) solve the bingeing?

That small ED voice that lurks deep from within is screaming 'get me that drug! Get me that drug!' so I can lose weight. WTH?!"

I’m glad she was brave enough to share what she was wondering, as I’m sure she’s not alone in her curiosity. Aren’t you wondering what this means for you?

Let's start by clarifying a few things about binge eating disorder. Most notable about BED is the recurring episodes of binge eating, feeling out of control while binging, and feeling guilt and shame afterward. People of all sizes live with BED, and the experience of a binge may vary. You might eat large amounts of one itemsuch as a whole package of cookies—or large amounts from a combination of foods. For some, even eating a single bite beyond what they intended may feel like a binge.
There's a way off the roller coaster--appropriately
named the Cyclone.

The common features among sufferers, though, is the guilt, shame and lack of control accompanying the eating. According to the Binge Eating Disorder Association,  "Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the United States. An estimated 3.5% of women, 2% of men, and 30% to 40% of those seeking weight loss treatments can be clinically diagnosed with binge eating disorder. The disorder impacts people of all races, levels of education and income — including adults, children and adolescents."

Given the shame associated with BED, however, there are likely many more living with the condition than we know.

Medication to the rescue?

Two recent studies were done using Vyvanse—a stimulant used to treat ADHD—for the treatment of moderate to severe binge eating disorder. They were well-done studies— randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled—with promising outcomes. 

In one study, participants who binged three or more times per week were treated with either a placebo—a dummy pill—or 30, 50 or 70 mgs/day. Researchers saw a significantly better response to the 50 and 70 mgs/day doses compared to placebo in a study of over 250 subjects with a roughly equal number of controls. Improvements included reduction in binge frequency/week, a higher percent of subjects binge free for 4 weeks, and a change from baseline in the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale Modified for Binge Eating—compared to placebo treatment.

Notable, however were a couple of other outcomes. The placebo group also improved, by 21.3 percent (versus 42% in the 50 mgs/day and 50% in the 70 mgs/day treated groups). Meaning, the belief that taking something could help your binge eating was enough to improve binge frequency.

And then there were the side effects. More than 5% of those treated with Vyvanse reported symptoms including “dry mouth, insomnia, headache, decreased appetite, nausea, irritability, heart rate increased, anxiety, feeling jittery, constipation, hyperhidrosis [excessive sweating].” Twelve patients (5%) on Vyvanse reported treatment-related adverse events that led them to stop the study; 5 patients in the placebo-treated group had such negative effects. 

And then there’s this: “CNS stimulants (amphetamines and methylphenidate-containing products) have a high potential for abuse and dependence.” 

If you struggle with Binge Eating Disorder and are tempted by the positive research results, consider the following before you request a prescription. While medications might improve binge eating, so does addressing some underlying eating patterns and thoughts—without the risks of medication. In fact, since the placebo also improved binge frequency by over 21%, it suggests that the power of believing you could change—with some help—is quite strong with BED.

Yes, there's hope without meds for BED!

Need I say more? http://www.annetaintor.com/

Do any of the following scenarios apply to you? If so, medications for BED may be unnecessary.
  1. You restrict your calories throughout the day, trying to be “good”. You deny your body the fuel it needs and by later in the day—often late afternoon or at night—you start eating, intending to eat in control. But then it feels like the flood gates open and you just can’t stop. Perhaps you feel like you’ve already blown it, so feeling defeated, you decide to continue to binge. You’re determined to get back on track tomorrow—with restricting. And so the cycle continues.
  2. You eat enough calories throughout the day, but your food choices are very limited—including only foods you "should" be eating based on rules you follow; they may be only high protein, or unprocessed or not very palatable. They are foods that you’re okay with, but that don’t necessarily give you much pleasure. Then, when at a friend’s or out to eat and you eat something to appear ‘normal’ or because you really want it, you have serious regret. Later you continue eating because you’ve already "ruined it", but are determined to get back to your very restrictive, healthy food choices.
  3. You truly get enough to eat—enough calories and enough of foods you really enjoy. But most of your eating is quite mindless—you eat standing up in the kitchen, while multitasking—while driving, on the computer or on the phone. So you never truly feel satisfied. And it’s worse when food is kept in sight.
  4. You eat enough, you get what you want to eat, AND you pay attention to eat mindfully. But when stress if high, or you struggle with an emotion that’s hard to sit with, your knee-jerk reaction is to reach for food for comfort or to numb out. You may even be completely aware of what you’re doing, but the pull is so strong, because in the short run, it helps. But later, you are left with regret.
If any of the above statements apply, then working with an eating disorder dietitian—together with a therapist can really help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a valuable, well-studied treatment for BED, and you can purchase self-help workbooks specifically for this condition as well. 

Learn to normalize  your eating!
Yes, binge eating can be resolved without medication. But it requires dropping the diet and rigidity around eating. Really, dieting simply isn't helping.

For those with ADHD who also binge eat, the medication may be helpful to manage impulsivity—which can lead to binge eating. Delayed gratification—redirecting and waiting to notice fullness—can be too challenging, as is moving away from multitasking.

But using Vyvanse is not without consequences. Decreased appetite may sound appealing but if you don’t know when you’re hungry, it's hard to trust when and how much to eat — making intuitive eating impossible. It may contribute to inadequate intake and food restriction—something those struggling with binge eating may already struggle with. 

Do we need to swap one problem with another?

Further, will doctors inappropriately start prescribing Vyvanse for those who are overweight but not living with moderate to severe BED? Will prescribing seem like the medical quick fix, while failing to address restrictive eating, or deprivation or over-exercising that truly need treatment? 

So, dear readers, please don’t be tempted. But don’t give up hope. Seek out providers that work with binge eating disorder patients because it is in your hands to change.

Other related links you might find helpful:








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