To examine whether drug use (DU) is higher in people with eating disorders (EDs) than in matched comparison groups and to collate, summarize and perform a meta analysis where possible on the literature related to DU in people with EDs.
We searched electronic databases including Medline, PsycINFO, Web of Science and CINAHL and reviewed studies published from 1994 to August, 2007, in English, German or Spanish against a priori inclusion/exclusion criteria. A total of 248 papers were eligible for inclusion. Only a total of 16 papers fulfilled all the inclusion criteria and were finally included in the systematic review.
The meta-analysis including all the different drugs for every sort of ED revealed a negligible albeit significant (z=2.34, p<.05), pooled standardized effect size of 0.119. The data showed a high degree of heterogeneity across the studies (X2(74)= 1267.61, p<.001). When ED subdiagnoses were assessed individually, DU was found to be higher in people with bulimia nervosa (BN) as a moderate sized increase in DU was found in this ED subtype (δ =0.462, z=6.69, p=<.001). People with binge eating disorder (BED) had a small increased risk of DU (δ =0.14, z=2.28, p<.05). In contrast, people with anorexia nervosa (AN) had a lower risk of DU (δ=-.167, z=1.81, p=.070, p=NS).
The differential risk observed in BN patients might be related to differences in temperament or might be the result of reward sensitisation as a result of the ED behaviours specifically associated with BN.