Meg Farris / Medical Reporter
Could there be a pill that could make weight loss easy without dieting?
Well some doctors believe there is help for people who can't stop binge eating.
And there is research going on right here in New Orleans for that purpose.
Eighth grader Krista Goldbard recently lost 40 pounds. Even though she played sports in school and got a nutritionist, it was still hard to lose weight until a doctor put her on a prescription pill.
"As soon as I started taking it, the feeling of hunger was pretty much just gone. I was never hungry and sometimes even like, food was the last thing on my mind," said Goldbard.
Goldbard has ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There is a brain chemical disorder causing problems with attention. Her mind wanders, concentration while reading was difficult until she got on a prescription drug called Adderall.
"I was really happy when I first got it because it started working pretty soon. Really, well, and I was like, 'Whoa, I'm not spacing out in class,' and I can actually pay attention and it was great.”
Because of the increased concentration her grades went up.
A side effect to that amphetamine changing your brain chemistry is that it also affects the primal drive towards food.
"It was definitely a lot different," she added.
Weight Loss Wednesday has reported in the past how Adderall is abused, admittedly by people in the entertainment industry and college students for weight loss.
But now doctors across the U.S., including New Orleans, are testing a similar drug to Adderall for weight loss. It's called Vyvanse. It too is an amphetamine and used for ADHD in all ages but the way it's formulated makes it less likely to be abused like Adderall.
Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Biunno is running the local arm of the trial at Louisiana Research Associates.
"This study is meant to be a study where someone has never taken a drug like this before and has binge eating disorder to see if this might decrease binge eating episodes," said Dr. Biunno.
Heather Gonzalez, 34, of Kenner, is hoping she can qualify for the free study. Living with binge eating disorder is difficult and misunderstood by others.
“It's something that you can't control and you kind of fight within yourself to control it and you can't," said Gonzalez.
She says she has struggled to keep her weight down her entire life, but her brain betrays her.
"I eat sometimes when I'm not hungry, eating when I'm so full, you know, don't need to eat anymore. I'll still eat enough to make you sick and so you feel kind of disgusted," Gonzalez explained.
The latest emerging science of our inherited brain chemistry, shows what makes certain people need to keep using drugs is similar to what makes others keep overeating.
Food, like drugs, activates pleasure circuits in the brain. In some people those circuits don't work properly. And now in this new study, doctors want to see if the prescription drug Vyvanse could balance out the brain chemistry.
Some doctors believe the brain is forcing the person to do this behavior.
"I firmly believe in a true case of binge eating disorder that, yes, the person has lost control and they cannot overcome the brain's will to eat more," said Dr. Biunno.
"It really is exciting and fascinating, the science that is emerging showing that everything from overeating, to compulsive sexual behavior, to the use of cocaine, to smoking, I mean all of these different disorders seem to share common neurobiological underpinnings," said New Orleans psychiatrist Dr. James Barbee.
But if a pill can change the chemistry of the brain and therefore change behavior, what happens when you stop taking the pill.
"It's an artificial impairment of your ability to want to eat. If you look at all weight loss products almost forever, when you get off of them, people regain the weight unless they've changed their lifestyle," said Dr. Kim Edward LeBlanc, the chairman of the Family Medicine department at LSU Health Sciences Center.
"The bottom line from my view on use of stimulants for weight loss, they do work. there's no question about that but every study I'm aware of, shows that once you stop the stimulant, you pretty much go right back to whatever your weight was before you started the stimulant," added Dr. Barbee.
Gonzalez accepts that but is still willing to try treatment with Vyvanse in the study and behavioral therapy afterward.
"I'm real positive about that because I think once you see progress and you get that started, it kind of takes off from there and it's exciting," Gonzalez said.
Doctors are looking for adult men and women who binge eat. You can not be pregnant and can not have any other psychiatric or digestive problems.
To see if you qualify for the free study, call Louisiana Research Associates at 504-363-7448.