Objectives: To assess the differences in comorbid lifetime and current substance use (tobacco, alcohol and drug use) between eating disorder (ED) patients and healthy controls in five different European countries.
Method: A total of 1664 participants took part in the present study. ED cases (n=879) were referred to specialized ED units in five European countries. The ED cases were compared to a balanced control group of 785 healthy individuals.
Assessment: Participants completed the Substance Use Subscale of the Cross Cultural (Environmental) Questionnaire (CCQ), a measure of lifetime tobacco, alcohol and drug use. In the control group, also the GHQ-28, the SCID-I interview and the EAT-26 were used.
Results: ED patients had higher lifetime and current tobacco and general drug use. The only non-significant result was obtained for lifetime and current alcohol use. Significant differences across ED subdiagnoses and controls also emerged, with BN and AN-BP generally presenting the highest and AN-R and controls the lowest rates. The only exception was detected for alcohol use where EDNOS demonstrated the highest values. Only a few cultural differences between countries emerged.
Conclusions: With the exception of alcohol consumption, tobacco and drug use appear to be more prevalent in ED patients than healthy controls. The differential risk observed in patients with bulimic features might be related to differences in temperament or might be the result of increased sensitivity to reward.