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A new study finds children and teens who overeat are more likely to start using marijuana and other drugs, compared with their peers who don’t eat too much. The study is based on surveys of almost 17,000 youth, Reuters reports.

“Physicians and parents should be aware that both overeating and binge eating are quite common in adolescents, and these problems put them at risk for other problems, such as drug use,” lead researcher Kendrin Sonneville of Boston Children’s Hospital told Reuters. “The earlier we can screen for who is at risk, the more able we are to prevent the onset of drug use.”

Dr. Sonneville said pediatricians should talk to their patients about eating patterns. Parents who notice their child is eating much more than usual in one sitting should consult the child’s doctor, she advised.

The children in the study, who were between the ages of 9 and 15 when it began, filled out health questionnaires every year or two between 1996 and 2005. During that period, 41 percent started using marijuana, and 32 percent used other illicit drugs.Those who reported overeating were 2.7 times more likely to start using marijuana or other drugs. Binge eaters—those who lost control during overeating—were 1.9 times more likely to start using drugs.

The findings appear in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.


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