The Repercussions of Drug Abuse and Weight Loss

To many people, the idea of losing a little weight is appealing, but regular exercise and a healthy diet can be hard to maintain. If you told these people there was a drug that could help them with their weight loss journey, many would jump at the opportunity. Diet pills are the first to come to mind, but these supplements typically make promises they can’t keep. The other alternative comes at a steep cost that isn’t worth the price. Our luxury treatment center in Palm Beach is exploring the connection between drug abuse and weight loss as well as potential health effects.


Prescription & Illegal Drugs That Make You Lose Weight

Along with several behavioral changes, drug abuse can also lead to noticeable appearance changes like weight loss. In a study on women in an HIV prevention program, participants that were either normal weight or underweight had significantly higher rates of drug use, especially those abusing heroin. Another study on a male cocaine user found that cocaine use was associated with decreased body weight, especially related to fat mass.

Especially with prolonged abuse, this weight loss can be extreme and fast and leave someone looking boney or ghostly rather than fit and physically appealing. This dramatic weight loss, combined with the other physical effects of drug abuse, can lead to serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the human body. If someone is addicted to drugs, they should enroll in standard or luxury addiction treatment for help before the damage is too far gone.

Weight loss from drugs may occur when people regularly abuse substances like:

  • Cocaine
  • Adderall
  • Methamphetamine
  • Nicotine
  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD
  • & More

Many of these substances fall into the stimulant class of drugs that speed up the body’s central nervous system and leave people feeling more alert. Stimulants tend to have a similar group of effects that, when acting together, can lead to unhealthy weight loss.


Why Do Drugs Make You Lose Weight?

Drugs can cause weight loss for a variety of reasons, depending on the type of drug and its side effects. Some drugs may reduce appetite, leading to less food intake. Others may increase metabolism or stimulate metabolism, causing the body to burn calories faster. Below is more about how drugs make you lose weight and the long-term repercussions.


Changes in Metabolism & Fat Storage

One of the major players in drug abuse weight loss is how these substances affect the body’s metabolism, especially over time. While cocaine-dependent men had a diet that was high in fat, they weren’t gaining weight as expected.2 The reason behind this is believed to be substantial changes in the body’s metabolism and ability to store fat. The exact mechanisms at play are still being studied.


Loss of Appetite

One of the common side effects of many drugs of abuse is loss of appetite. When people go on drug binges to avoid withdrawal, they may not eat a real meal for several days because they simply aren’t hungry. This could be a contributing factor to their weight loss. While lack of appetite was previously thought to be the main reason that many people abusing drugs like cocaine or meth would lose weight, new research suggests that changes in metabolism are more impactful.


Increased Energy

Many of these illicit drugs that cause weight loss are stimulants. Along with suppressing appetite, stimulants tend to increase energy and alertness. Energetic people who are moving around are more likely to burn calories than their sedentary peers. Abusing drugs that consistently increase activity could be part of the reason that these people experience drug abuse and weight loss.


Gastrointestinal Problems

Certain drugs can also cause gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea and nausea, which can further contribute to weight loss by reducing nutrient absorption.


Poor Mental Health

Drug abuse may not be the only factor at play. In some cases, poor mental health can lead people to not want to eat and be a contributing factor in a drug addict’s weight loss. Those who struggle with both poor mental health and addiction should seek dual-diagnosis treatment.


Long-Term Repercussions of Substance Abuse and Weight Loss

While being underweight may seem healthier than being overweight, being too thin comes with its own set of problems. A study found that people who are underweight have just as high a risk of dying as people who are obese, even when taking into account smoking and alcohol abuse.

While obese people with a BMI of 30 to 34.5 are 1.2 times more likely to die than people with a normal BMI, underweight people with a BMI under 18.5 are 1.8 times more likely to die than people with a normal BMI.  Combined with the negative effects of the abused drugs themselves, drug abusers can cause serious or sometimes even fatal damage to their bodies.

In addition to health problems related to extreme weight loss and being underweight, drug abuse can also contribute to health problems like addiction, dependence, cancer, heart problems, liver problems, and more. If you or someone you care about has a drug addiction, get help.

Our drug and alcohol detox in Palm Beach helps wean patients off their substance of choice, allowing them to begin recovery on a clean slate. We also offer outpatient and residential treatment options to ensure that clients are given treatment plans individualized to meet their needs.


To get started on the journey to recovery for yourself or a loved one, call Seaside Palm Beach today at 561-677-9374 or contact us online.



  1. NCBI – Associations between Body Weight Status and Substance Use among African American Women in Baltimore, Maryland: The CHAT Study
  2. NCBI – The skinny on cocaine: Insights into eating behavior and body weight in cocaine-dependent men
  3. ScienceDirect – Underweight people at as high risk of dying as obese people, new study finds


Related Reading:

Comparing Crack vs. Cocaine

Possession of a Prescription Drug Without a Lawful Prescription

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