Cocaine Abuse and Weight Loss
Table of Contents
Most people who abuse drugs tend to be thin, but this is especially true with cocaine.
We have all heard stories claiming cocaine abuse results in weight loss, and popular culture often portrays it as an appetite suppressant, but does science back this up?
Does cocaine suppress your appetite and lead to weight loss? We will examine the complex relationship between cocaine abuse, weight, and eating patterns.
Cocaine as an Appetite Suppressant
Cocaine is one of the most popular party drugs among young people, promising to make them feel happy, euphoric, and energised throughout the night to prolong the fun. But like any other drug, cocaine has side effects, some more dangerous than others.
Cocaine is often hailed as an appetite suppressant due to its use in the modelling industry, inspiring some to call the dangerous trend the “cocaine diet”. However, the truth is much more complicated than that.
Dealers often cut cocaine with other substances like laxatives or analgesics. At lower doses and short-term usage, cocaine suppresses appetite when analgesics numb the digestive tract and make the user feel full. Yet long-term cocaine abuse increases hunger levels and creates unhealthy eating patterns. Cocaine abuse also makes users prone to uncontrolled food consumption.
Research suggests that cocaine users do not gain pounds regardless of how much sugary and high-calorie food they eat. While decreased appetite may be a side effect of cocaine researched by some users, it is not the only reason people who abuse cocaine tend to lose weight.
The Science Behind Cocaine and Weight Loss
So, cocaine may temporarily reduce appetite, but this does not fully explain why long-term users typically lose weight. A study from the Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cambridge analysed the eating patterns of sixty men — half chronic cocaine users and the other half with no reported addiction. They discovered that those using cocaine consistently tended to consume more fatty and sugary foods but still showed a reduction in body fat that the non-addicted group did not show while following a more healthy and balanced diet.
It appears that the main reason cocaine users lose weight is not just because it numbs the stomach and takes their minds off of eating but because it affects the body’s metabolism. Science links chronic cocaine usage to decreasing leptin, a hormone regulating body weight. Leptin helps maintain a healthy weight, but under the influence of cocaine, leptin decreases and changes the way your body uses energy and stores fat.
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Where Did the Story Come From?
Cocaine is one of the most well-known drugs, frequently glamorised in movies and television. It is often considered a symbol of luxury and festive decadence and has become known as an appetite suppressant, thus the nickname skinny drug.
The prevalence of gossip magazines and social media stars has linked the use of cocaine with slim and attractive women, notably models, who have admitted to using it for weight loss or energy boosts.
The unsettling amount of publicity for cocaine had a lot of consequences, as people began to advertise it as a weight loss tool, especially among young women. All this hype led to the dangerous “cocaine diet” trend.
It is critical to remember that the weight loss associated with cocaine use is far from healthy. Cocaine disrupts bodily processes, hormones, and appetite, resulting in malnutrition and a weakened immune system.
Does Cocaine Make You Lose Weight?
Cocaine abuse can result in significant weight loss, and numerous factors are involved in this process.
1. Cocaine is a powerful stimulant.
People who use cocaine report feeling more energetic and alert, often staying up longer than usual. Since they are not consuming as many calories, users tend to lose weight due to the energy uprise paired with a calorie deficit.
2. Cutting cocaine with other substances is common, notably analgesics and laxatives.
Analgesics found in the drug numb the digestive tract, giving the illusion of a full stomach and decreasing hunger. Meanwhile, laxatives have a stimulating effect on the bowels, which promotes frequent trips to the toilet and additional weight loss.
3. Evidence has linked cocaine use to a drop in leptin levels, the hormone responsible for controlling body weight and metabolism.
Cocaine speeds up metabolism, preventing the body from effectively storing fat, leading to weight loss. In addition, cocaine use has been connected to muscle loss, leaving users looking slimmer.
Body Weight and Fat Levels
Studies have suggested that, while the common belief that cocaine suppresses appetite is debatable, the drug can affect how the body stores fat.
Researchers observed and analysed the dietary preferences and physical changes between users and non-users, and it became apparent that the former group tended to consume more fatty and gluten-filled foods than the latter. Despite their caloric differences, cocaine users weighed an average of six kilograms less than non-users. Furthermore, body scans revealed that cocaine users generally had a lower proportion of fat relative to lean mass compared to non-users.
Cocaine and Eating Disorders
Eating disorders (ED) are extreme and unhealthy eating patterns that stem from an obsession with weight and appearance.
Eating disorders can manifest in many forms and have grave consequences for the individual’s health.
The most prevalent types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, which affect both men and women.
Eating disorders can affect anyone at any stage of life; however, they are especially likely to show up during early adulthood or adolescence. Individually tailored therapy proves very successful in treating many types of EDs.
People suffering from an eating disorder often deal with other mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
The three most common types of eating disorders are described below.
Those who suffer from anorexia nervosa have an obsessive fear of gaining weight, refuse to maintain a healthy weight, and may have a distorted perception of their bodies. They severely limit the amount of food they consume, considering themselves overweight while underweight and malnourished.
Anorexia can cause serious health issues such as brain damage, multiple organ failure, bone loss, infertility, and heart problems.
Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate among eating disorders.
Bulimia is compulsive and uncontrolled overeating followed by purging in the form of overexercising, self-induced vomiting, and laxative abuse. People struggling with bulimia often fear gaining weight and are unhappy with their body size and shape. Binge eating and purging typically occur in secret, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and loss of control. Symptoms of bulimia include digestive issues, extreme dehydration, and heart problems caused by electrolyte imbalances.
Binge Eating Disorder
People who suffer from this disorder struggle to control their food consumption. Unlike bulimia, there are no purging behaviours like self-induced vomiting or overexercising.
What Is the Link Between Cocaine and Eating Disorders?
People dealing with eating disorders that revolve around excessive weight loss often search for ways to eliminate feelings of hunger. Those battling anorexia and bulimia abuse cocaine as they seek to suppress their appetite.
Explorative Relationships Between Personality Traits and Eating Patterns
The Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ) was used to measure eating behaviour, while the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-11) and Obsessive–Compulsive Inventory (OCI-R) was employed to measure impulsivity and compulsivity. Results showed that impulsive traits correlated significantly with uncontrolled eating in healthy men but not cocaine-dependent men. Contrarily, compulsive personality traits affecting deliberate restriction of food intake to influence body weight are present in cocaine-dependent but not in healthy men.
Getting Help for Cocaine Addiction
Smarmore Castle’s cocaine addiction treatment programmes are comprehensive. They look at all aspects contributing to the addiction, including changes in brain chemistry, social and familial factors, and environmental cues. The goal is to help patients achieve long-lasting sobriety and prevent relapse.
The First Step – Detox
If you are struggling with cocaine addiction, medically supervised detoxification may be necessary. Detox helps to protect you from cravings and reduce the chances of relapse while your system flushes out the drug. It also ensures you are in a good physical state to begin cocaine addiction treatment and intensive therapy.
Smarmore Castle offers a medically supervised detox programme where you can start a complete detox even if you are not completely clean upon admission. The length of the detox will depend on your history of drug abuse and current physical and psychological state. In case of severe withdrawal symptoms, Smarmore’s specialists will provide you with withdrawal medications to ease your discomfort and worries.
Detox is the initial step of the journey to recovery and is a requirement before beginning therapy. Studies have demonstrated that residential rehab is the most successful treatment for those battling substance abuse.
The Second Step – Addiction Treatment
At Smarmore Castle, our addiction treatment programme lasts four weeks, but patients can extend their stay. A psychiatrist assesses all the patients within the first week of rehab. Along with addiction, we also diagnose and provide help for any other mental health issues that may be present.
We have customised our addiction treatment to meet your individual needs. Our addiction treatment programmes include a range of personalised therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), one-on-one counselling, group therapy, family therapy, and bereavement therapy.
Complementary therapies like equine-assisted therapy, drum circles, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, mindfulness meditation, and aquatherapy can also be part of the programme to assist you in transforming into a healthier version of yourself and help create a solid foundation for your fresh start away from the grip of addiction.
The Third Step – Aftercare
Addiction is a lifelong illness, with relapse being a possibility months or even years after completing treatment. For this reason, every patient leaves Smarmore with a free 12-month aftercare plan and support package to help them successfully transition back into their home environment and maintain sobriety.
If you or someone you love is battling their way out of addiction, give us a call. We’re here to help.
Not sure if you’re addicted to cocaine? Take this quiz to help you decide.
- Ersche, K.D. et al. (2013) “The skinny on cocaine: Insights into eating behaviour and body weight in cocaine-dependent men,” Appetite, 71, pp. 75–80. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2013.07.011.
- Billing, L.J. and Ersche, K.D. (2015) “Cocaine’s appetite for fat and the consequences on body weight,” American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 41(2), pp. 115–118. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3109/00952990.2014.966196.
- Cocaine Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment (2023). Available at: https://www.smarmore-rehab-clinic.com/addiction-treatment/what-we-treat/drug-addiction/cocaine-addiction/.
- Escobar, M. et al. (2018) “Leptin levels and its correlation with crack-cocaine use severity: A preliminary study,” Neuroscience Letters, 671, pp. 56–59. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2018.02.009.
- How to Access Rehab With Health Insurance
For those experiencing existing mental health conditions in Ireland, there are private medical insurers who can help you cover treatment. As addiction experts, we know that receiving the appropriate care and support when you have a mental health disorder is pivotal to attaining long-lasting recovery. Below, we will go through the various health insurance options to help you understand your options when it comes to seeking private residential care for substance abuse. Please note that there is no guarantee that you can be covered for all addiction problems as policies are always assessed on a case-by-case basis. Find Out More
- My Loved One Doesn’t Want Help, What Do I Do?
You can’t force someone to go to rehab. At the end of the day, it needs to be their decision because they are the ones that need to be open to turning their lives around. There are ways in which you can encourage someone to enter treatment, one of these ways is via an intervention with a trained interventionist, who facilitates an honest discussion between family members and the addict. This is something Smarmore Castle can arrange – contact us today.
- Which Drugs Does Smarmore Castle Detox From?
- How Long Is the Treatment Programme?
Our treatment programme starts at 4 weeks and is flexible in length, giving you the opportunity to extend for a longer period if you need it.
- Do You Treat Dual Diagnosis?
All patients are reviewed by a consultant psychiatrist in the first week and we can diagnose and provide treatment for a number of co-occurring mental health conditions.
- Do I Need to Be Abstinent Before Admission?
Our medically managed detoxification with 24/7 medical cover means that we can perform complete and complex detoxes at Smarmore Castle. You don’t need to be abstinent before arrival.
- How Do I Get To Rehab Safely?
Smarmore Castle is one hour north of Dublin international airport and we can arrange a driver to collect you and bring you straight to us for free.
We can also arrange a ‘sober transport’ service with a trusted driver, from anywhere in Ireland or Northern Ireland, at an additional cost.