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Treating Binge Eating Disorder with FDA-Approved Medicines
Years ago, treating binge eating disorder (BED) with medication was uncommon. Researchers say drugs can be effective when combined with traditional therapy and ongoing support.
Vyvanse: Common Medication for Binge Eating
The most common pharmacological treatment for binge eating disorder (BED) is lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, commonly known by the brand name Vyvanse.
This drug is a central nervous system stimulant approved to treat children and adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Researchers began to study the effectiveness of Vyvanse for BED with promising results. Patients had fewer bingeing episodes, and they also experienced other clinical benefits. 
Researchers hypothesize that the mechanism behind this success is related to the neurological foundations of binge eating behaviors and how Vyvanse alters this neurology.
The psychological underpinnings of BED should still be considered in treatment, as Vyvanse does not address these issues. As a result, many criticize the use of the medication.
People who stay on Vyvanse tend to avoid relapse for longer than those who do not, suggesting the medication keeps the eating disorder suppressed rather than treating it.  Like other mental health disorders, eating disorders are chronic conditions that must be continually managed.
There are other adverse side effects of Vyvanse that could be cause for concern, including these: 
- Dry mouth
- Decreased appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Feeling jittery
Vyvanse can also cause psychotic or manic symptoms, even in individuals with no previous history. 
Researchers continue to seek more information on the effect, positive or negative, that Vyvanse has on treating binge eating disorder.
Other Binge Eating Disorder Medication
Fluoxetine, more commonly known as Prozac, is another FDA-approved drug to treat eating disorders. However, it is approved to treat bulimia nervosa, not BED. Even so, researchers are looking into how this drug can be used to treat BED and have seen success.
Researchers say this medication can help to reduce binge eating behavior, and some people who used it also lost more weight than those taking a placebo. 
Small studies also found benefits in BED treatment with the following medications: 
Since the FDA doesn’t approve these for binge eating disorder, your doctor may not use them first. But this could be a good option if you don’t respond to the traditional BED pharmacological solutions.
Binge Eating Disorder Treatment
Binge eating disorder (whether moderate to severe) mustn’t be treated with medication alone. Although binge eating disorder medications have proven effective, it’s essential to pair them with therapy to get to the core of the eating disorder.
If the correct type of therapy and additional support is not utilized, binge eating episodes will likely continue. Even if medication for binge eating is used alone and does reduce binge eating, it’s usually not a long-term solution, with the eating disorder returning once the medication is discontinued.
Therapy is the most effective in reducing binge eating and instilling healthy eating habits. These can include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- One-on-one psychotherapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Family therapy
How to Treat Binge Eating Disorder with Medication
Pharmacological treatment for binge eating disorder can be hugely beneficial regarding how neurobiology and co-occurring disorders impact binge eating disorder. However, it seems clear that the most effective treatment involves medication management and therapy.
Medical supervision by a healthcare professional is required for any eating disorder treatment plan that includes medicines.
- Fala L. (2016). Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate): First FDA-Approved Drug for the Treatment of Adults with Binge Eating Disorders. American Health and Drug Benefits. Accessed September 2022.
- Hudson JI, McElroy SL, Ferreira-Cornwell MC, Radewonuk J, Gasior M. (2017). Efficacy of Lisdexamfetamine in Adults With Moderate to Severe Binge-Eating Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry; 74(9):903-910.
- Chakraborty K, Grover S. (2011). Methylphenidate-Induced Mania-Like Symptoms. Indian Journal of Pharmacology; 43(1):80-81.
- Crow S. (2014). Treatment of Binge Eating Disorder. Current Treatment Options in Psychiatry; 1(4):307-314.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published January 30, 2023, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC