Co-morbidity of eating disorders and substance abuse review of the literature

Int J Eat Disord. 1994 Jul;16(1):1-34. doi: 10.1002/1098-108x(199407)16:1<1::aid-eat2260160102>;2-t.


The comorbidity of eating disorders and substance use and abuse has frequently been reported in the past 15 years. To date, however, no synthesis of this literature exists. Here, 51 studies reporting on these associations are reviewed. Studies of substance use and abuse in eating disordered women are considered, as are studies of eating disorders among women classified as substance abusers. The rates of substance abuse among eating disordered women are also examined. This review indicates that associations are stronger with bulimia, and "bulimic" behaviors, than with anorexia nervosa. Analogously, bulimic anorectics report more substance use and abuse than restricters. The prevalence of drug abuse was not found to differ between the relatives of bulimics and anorectics. Several mechanisms explaining the eating disorder-substance use/abuse link are considered, and suggestions for future research made.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / epidemiology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Bulimia / epidemiology*
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Medication
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology