Use of Psychopharmacologic Medications in Adolescents With Restrictive Eating Disorders: Analysis of Data From the National Eating Disorder Quality Improvement Collaborative

J Adolesc Health. 2015 Jul;57(1):66-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.03.021.


Purpose: Psychopharmacologic medications are often prescribed to patients with restrictive eating disorders (EDs), and little is known about the frequency of use in adolescents. We examined the use of psychopharmacologic medications in adolescents referred for treatment of restrictive ED, potential factors associated with their use, and reported psychiatric comorbidities.

Methods: Retrospective data from the initial and 1-year visits were collected for patients referred for evaluation of restrictive ED at 12 adolescent-based ED programs during 2010 (Group 1), including diagnosis, demographic information, body mass index, prior treatment modalities, and psychopharmacologic medications. Additional data regarding patients' comorbid psychiatric conditions and classes of psychopharmacologic medications were obtained from six sites (Group 2).

Results: Overall, 635 patients met inclusion criteria and 359 had 1-year follow-up (Group 1). At intake, 20.4% of Group 1 was taking psychopharmacologic medication and 58.7% at 1 year (p ≤ .0001). White, non-Hispanic race (p = .020), and prior higher level of care (p < .0001) were positively associated with medication use at 1 year. Among Group 2 (n = 256), serotonin reuptake inhibitors/serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors use was most common, and 62.6% had a reported psychiatric comorbidity. Presence of any psychiatric comorbidity was highly associated with medication use; odds ratio, 10.0 (5.6, 18.0).

Conclusions: Adolescents with restrictive ED treated at referral centers have high rates of reported psychopharmacologic medication use and psychiatric comorbidity. As more than half of this referral population were reported to be taking medication, continued investigation is warranted to ensure the desired outcomes of the medications are being met.

Keywords: Adolescents; Anorexia nervosa; Medications; Psychiatric comorbidity; Psychopharmacology; Restrictive eating disorders.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia Nervosa / drug therapy*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders of Childhood / drug therapy*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders of Childhood / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors


  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors