Naltrexone Reduces Binge Eating and Purging in Adolescents in an Eating Disorder Program.

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DOI: 10.1089/cap.2019.0056; PMCID: PMC6822572


Objective: Little evidence exists for pharmacologic treatment of binge eating and purging in adolescents with eating disorders. Given the role of the opioid reward system in compulsive binge eating and purging, naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, may be effective in reducing these behaviors. Previous studies have demonstrated that naltrexone reduces binge eating and purging in adults, yet evidence for its use in adolescents is lacking. This case series describes naltrexone utilization, response, and safety in adolescents with eating disorders. Methods: A retrospective chart review of adolescent patients prescribed naltrexone at an academic eating disorder program was completed. Results: Thirty-three adolescents aged 15.3 ± 1.49 years, 94% female gender identity, were treated with naltrexone with the most common expected outcome "to reduce vomiting." Naltrexone was prescribed for 129 ± 125 days. Over half of patients (52%, n = 17) had liver function tests during follow-up, all of which were within normal limits. Three patients (9.1%) experienced nausea related to naltrexone. Just over half of adolescents (67%; n = 22) had documentation of positive naltrexone response (e.g., reduced purging or urge to purge). The mean Clinical Global Impressions-Improvement score was 2.7 ± 1.3 (2 = much improved; 3 = minimally improved). Conclusions: Naltrexone is safe, well tolerated, and effective for the treatment of adolescents with binge eating and/or purging as part of a comprehensive eating disorder treatment plan. Further study is necessary to confirm the effectiveness of naltrexone prospectively and evaluate factors contributing to naltrexone response vs. nonresponse to promote an individualized approach to treatment of binge eating and purging behavior.

Journal Title

Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology





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MeSH Keywords

Adolescent; Binge-Eating Disorder; Bulimia Nervosa; Female; Humans; Male; Naltrexone; Narcotic Antagonists; Off-Label Use; Retrospective Studies; Vomiting


adolescents; binge eating; naltrexone; neuropharmacology; psychopharmacology; purge

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