PhotoColorado and Washington recently became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use, not just for medicinal purposes, and the weed appears to be on the road to legalization elsewhere. 

But a new study finds that it may bring an unexpected problem with it -- binge eating. The study published Online First by Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a JAMA Network publication finds that overeating and binge eating in adolescents and young adults may be associated with the use of marijuana and other drugs.

Kendrin R. Sonneville, Sc.D., R.D., of Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues examined the association between overeating and binge eating  and adverse outcomes such as overweight/obesity, depressive symptoms, frequent binge drinking, marijuana use and other drug use.

The study included 16,882 boys and girls who were 9 to 15 years old in 1996 and participated in the Growing Up Today Study. Overeating and binge eating were assessed by questionnaires every 12 to 24 months between 1996 and 2005.

More common among women

PhotoBinge eating was more common among females than males, with 2.3 percent to 3.1 percent of females and 0.3 percent to 1 percent of males reporting binge eating between the ages of 16 and 24, according to the study results.

“In summary, we found that binge eating, but not overeating, predicted the onset of overweight/obesity and worsening depressive symptoms. We further observed that any overeating ... predicted the onset of marijuana and other drug use,” the authors comment.

Binge eating is defined as eating an amount of food that is larger than most people would eat in a similar period under similar circumstances and feeling a lack of control over eating during the episode, according to the study background.

“Given that binge eating is uniquely predictive of some adverse outcomes and because previous work has found that binge eating is amenable to intervention, clinicians should be encouraged to screen adolescents for binge eating,” the authors said.

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