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

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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:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Bupropion (Aplenzin, Forfivo, Wellbutrin), although it can cause seizures if taken by someone who binges then tries to rid the body of the food (purges)

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.

Read more on: mental health, eating disorders, binge eating disorder