Amphetamines for Binge Eating Disorder: Who, What, When, Where & How

If you are familiar with the drug Vyvanse®, a commonly-used amphetamine in the treatment of ADHD and formerly in diet pills, you may have asked yourself why it is being discussed so frequently in the mainstream media as a treatment for Binge Eating Disorder. You may also recall having seen a powerful television commercial featuring champion tennis player, Monica Seles, discussing her struggle with BED.

BED As a Medical Condition

It wasn’t until 2013, with the release of the DSM-5, that the American Psychiatric Association classified BED as a medical condition. The awareness campaign for BED was developed shortly thereafter by Shire, a pharmaceutical company that received approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 2015 to market Vyvanse® to treat BED. According to,“By the time of the 2013 release of the DSM-5—which, with universal support from the DSM committee, included binge eating disorder—Shire had already laid the groundwork for its awareness campaign around the condition.”

Despite some criticism for “gung-ho marketing” and an “attempt to repackage a drug that’s been around for decades,” Shire did receive some positive feedback for their involvement in the dissemination of information about BED. Evelyn Attia, the director of the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders, reports that, as a result of Shire’s targeted marketing campaigns, “patients are feeling more confident that they’ll be able to get the appropriate health care for a somewhat recognized diagnosis.” More information about signs and symptoms of BED can be found here.

The Use of Amphetamines for BED Treatment

Across clinical trials, 40% of Vyvanse® patients achieved complete abstinence from binge eating post-treatment (compared to 15% in the control groups), though overwhelming evidence continues to demonstrate the benefits of therapist-led CBT. According to results from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), therapist-led CBT treatment resulted in 59% of patients achieving complete abstinence from binge eating post-treatment (compared to 11% in the control groups).

As behavioral therapy remains the gold standard for treatment of BED at this time, here at Columbus Park Treatment Center in New York, we primarily utilize this model of intervention. Due to the effectiveness of our CBT-based interventions and the high quality of our trained clinicians, we refer a very small percentage of patients to medication as a second line of defense. In only a handful of cases, when binge-eating doesn’t improve by 50% within the first 8 weeks of therapy, do we consider Vyvanse® as an option. Want to learn more about the behavioral interventions used at our center? Click here!

Note: Vyvanse® is considered a Schedule II federally controlled substance—meaning it’s acceptable for medical use but has high potential for abuse, though the company feels it is clear that Vyvanse® is for BED, not for weight loss, and that Vyvanse® labeling and promotional material clearly spell out its risks.

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Six Surprising Facts About Binge Eating Disorder