Background: Research suggests that substance use disorders and disordered eating are often comorbid. In light of the ongoing opioid epidemic, the purpose of the current study was to understand the prevalence and health-related correlates of loss of control (LOC) eating in adults seeking methadone maintenance treatment primarily for addiction to heroin and/or painkillers.
Methods: Participants were 447 adults surveyed at presentation for methadone maintenance treatment who responded to survey items on LOC eating. Descriptive statistics were used to investigate the prevalence of engaging in LOC eating in the past 2 weeks. Chi-square tests, t tests, and analyses of covariance were used to compare individuals with (LOC+; n = 164) and without (LOC-; n = 283) recent LOC eating on psychosocial, pain-related, and weight-related characteristics.
Results: Approximately one third of respondents endorsed LOC eating in the past 2 weeks. These participants reported greater affective symptoms, interpersonal dysfunction, pain intensity, and pain interference than the LOC- group (Cohen's d effect size range = .24-.94). LOC+ was also more likely to have engaged in recent illicit drug use and to report having concurrent overweight/obesity (φ effect size range = .09-.10).
Conclusion: The prevalence of LOC eating in adults seeking methadone maintenance treatment was more than triple what has been reported in previous studies using community samples. Given its associations with other health-related variables, the presence of LOC eating may be a marker for more severe psychopathology in individuals seeking methadone maintenance treatment. Future research is needed to understand mechanisms explaining this comorbidity and to develop novel ways to prevent and treat their co-occurrence.
Keywords: Binge eating; Loss of control eating; Methadone; Opioid use disorders; Pain; Substance use disorders.