• 24Jan

    Early Childhood Addictions: Overeating in children can lead to drug addiction

    Boy eating french fries

    Habits developed during the childhood years can have long-term health effects; this is commonly known. New research suggests children who overeat and have poor nutrition habits may be more prone to drug use as adults. Overeating is often due to an inability to exercise control; it is this loss of control that researchers believe may lead to drug use.

    In the Growing Up Today Study, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital studied nearly 17,000 boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 15. Over the span of nine years, from 1996 to 2005, participants were sent questionnaires every one to two years, asking if they were overeating or binge eating. Researchers defined binge eating as eating large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control while eating. Overeating was defined as eating a large amount of food while still feeling in control.

    “We found that binge eating, but not overeating, predicted the onset of overweight/obesity and worsening depressive symptoms,” lead author, Kendrin Sonneville, said in summary of findings.

    While binge eating lead to increased chances of obesity, doctors found a strong link between overeating and the onset of marijuana and drug use; though researchers admit there is more work to do on this issue. “Why it’s connected to possible drug use, we don’t understand yet.”


    The Growing Up Today Study looked at how eating habits and weight affect many aspects of daily life for youth and adults. To read more about this ongoing study, go to www.gutsweb.org.

    If you or someone you love suffers from overeating, seek the help of a professional. Psychologists, nutritionists and other trained professionals can help an overeater understand why he or she eats, and help them learn and adopt healthy eating habits. Individuals who struggle with overeating should not be afraid or ashamed to seek help. Working with doctors who are trained in treating binge eating and other eating disorders can help an individual manage weight, eating and emotions associated with their eating disorder.