When it comes to losing weight, anyone who has tried to drop a few pounds will likely share their struggles with fried foods, sugar or overeating. For many people — and particularly women — turning to illegal drugs as a method of shedding unwanted pounds has become an unhealthy method for staying slim.
Although unhealthy weight loss from taking drugs can result, it can also cause serious and sometimes permanent health and lifestyle damage. If you’re considering which drugs make you skinny, it’s time to pause and reevaluate your options.
Why Do Drugs Make You Skinny?
There are a wide variety of drugs that make you lose weight. Some are legitimately prescribed by a physician as one tool in the fight against obesity, such as Orlistat, Phentermine (Adipex or Suprenza), Qsymia and Belviq. These drugs work by suppressing appetite or blocking the amount of fat absorbed by the body.
Others include weight loss as a side effect. People who take Wellbutrin for depression, for example, often notice accompanying weight loss. Recreational drug abuse also sometimes cause changes in weight, and many people who try a drug a few times find themselves hooked after they observe their slimmer waistlines.
There are two primary kinds of recreational drugs: central nervous system depressants and central nervous system stimulants. Central nervous system depressants include drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, heroin, Vicodin, Xanax, barbiturates and sleep aids. Each of these drugs cross the blood brain barrier and force the brain to slow down essential bodily functions such as breathing and heartbeat. They also induce relaxation, cause sleepiness, impair cognitive ability and cause uncomfortable changes in digestive function.
Although abusing CNS depressants can cause people to lose weight, stimulants are the drugs generally abused to make people skinny. Central nervous system stimulants include substances such as cocaine, “study” drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, methamphetamine and ecstasy. This class of drug sometimes includes legitimate weight loss drugs sold on a prescription and over the counter basis. Unlike depressants, stimulants speed up bodily functions such as heartbeat and breathing. This is why people who take stimulants are able to go several days without sleeping or eating — and profound exhaustion and depression or irritability follow these periods of abuse.
Although addiction medicine professionals recognize changes in weight — including unhealthy weight loss — as a symptom of drug abuse, the mechanisms by which drugs alter appetite and metabolism remain unclear. For example, a recent British study found that cocaine profoundly alters metabolism in those who abuse it, even though addicted individuals consume more fatty foods and have higher levels of the fat-absorbing protein (leptin) than non-addicted individuals. Other drugs, such as Adderall, suppress appetite and increase metabolism.
Drugs That Make You Lose Weight
If you’re wondering which drugs make you skinny, you’re not alone. Although we don’t have a full understanding of why illicit drugs make you lose weight, an individual who develops a substance abuse problem negatively alters numerous essential bodily functions.
Cognitively, people who abuse drugs make poor and often impulsive decisions. As addiction progresses, getting more drugs becomes the only thing that matters. The struggling individual isn’t thinking about maintaining a healthy weight through better nutrition or meeting important family obligations — the individual is only thinking about the next time he can get high, and all available funds go to drugs. This dangerous behavior, when combined with the sometimes-stimulating effects of illicit drugs, is one reason there are immense health risks of losing weight too fast from taking drugs.
Unhealthy Weight Loss From Taking Drugs
Experts at the Mayo Clinic and other respected medical organizations typically recommend a weight loss rate of no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. This rate not only helps the individual keep the weight off for the long-term, but it also assures that the pounds lost come from fat and not water or lean muscle mass. Because lean muscle mass efficiently burns calories, maintaining as much lean muscle mass as possible is desirable. Regular exercise not only increases lean muscle mass, but it also boosts metabolism. People with a high metabolism burn calories and shed pounds faster than those with a low metabolism.
The health risks of losing weight too fast from taking drugs are considerable. If you or someone you care about is using drugs because of the temporary weight loss effects, understanding why drugs make people lose weight and how to safely achieve a healthy physique is essential.
If your calorie consumption has dropped below 1,200 calories per day — whether on purpose or as an accidental side effect of drug abuse — your body is desperate to burn enough calories to fuel daily activity. Instead of a healthy mix of fat and carbohydrates, the body burns everything in its path, including muscle. It also becomes desperate to hold on to fat, so it reduces metabolism. Once the crash diet or drug abuse stops, the body packs on the pounds in the form of fat.
If prolonged, very low calorie diets can cause metabolic syndrome as well as type 2 diabetes. Ironically, fasting and low calorie diets increase fat gain around the waist, which is the most dangerous place to have body fat due to the risk of heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, dangerous cholesterol levels and high blood sugar characterize metabolic syndrome. Individuals with metabolic syndrome are much more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke or diabetes. The only way to beat metabolic syndrome is to make extreme lifestyle changes that include quitting drugs, getting regular exercise and eating a diet comprised of healthy nutrients.
What to Do if Drugs Are Making You Lose Weight
When a person decides to take a recreational drug, their decision begins a chain of events that leads to deteriorating physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health. Illicit drugs cause profound changes in the body that begin in the brain. All drugs, including alcohol, negatively affect learning and memory. As abuse progresses, people who take drugs often forget about the serious negative consequences that result from getting high.
Bad decisions mount as the effects of the drug begin to gain in severity in the rest of the body. An individual who takes drugs might have problems with the liver, the veins, the digestive system, the heart and the respiratory system. People who abuse drugs are also more likely to sustain or cause serious injury.
The bottom line is that an individual who abuses drugs harms his body, his mind and his lifestyle — not only his weight. If you noticed that drugs are making you lose weight, there may be other problems underneath. The good news is that help is available that addresses every aspect of addiction, not only the physical or emotional withdrawal from abuse. Certain drug addiction rehab programs teach you how to quit using as you re-engage with healthier activities and better eating habits.
When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, there’s no substitute for sustained, long term changes in lifestyle. When it comes to keeping a slim waistline, nothing beats a consistent energy burn fueled by cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and a diet comprised of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and high fiber foods.
You don’t have to run a marathon or subsist on kale smoothies to lose weight, look great and feel your best. The important thing to remember is that real, lasting results come from consistent effort and steady change. Although people diagnosed with clinical obesity may benefit from taking a prescription weight loss medication under the careful supervision of a physician, weight loss drugs only account for part of the lifestyle equation.
Fasts and cleanses that promise to rid your body of “toxins” might produce quick results but are not sustainable over time — they can lead to greater weight gain in the future. A healthy physique and lifestyle are the products of patience and determination, not shortcuts.
Before you begin any diet or exercise program, visit your doctor for a checkup — especially if you have been abusing recreational drugs or alcohol. Quitting these substances suddenly can produce unwanted side effects that can lead to extended health problems. Once you have been given the go-ahead, start slowly. According to the American Council on Exercise, nothing derails a fitness plan faster than sustaining an early injury. Aim for two to three days a week of mild to moderate cardiovascular exercise.
As your strength improves, you can add weight strength training and more vigorous cardiovascular activities such as biking or jogging. After a couple of weeks, you will likely notice improvement in your energy level and mood — exercise is proven to enhance both.
Although exercise is essential for heart health, strength, immunity to disease and a better overall outlook, people who achieve the best results include diet modification as an essential part of a major lifestyle overhaul. Dark green vegetables and lean proteins keep you fueled for longer, more challenging workouts. High fiber foods keep your digestive system happy and also keep you fuller for a longer period of time, which helps you avoid cravings.
Avoiding or eliminating processed foods, and especially refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, is essential. Recent evidence published in the New York Times Magazine suggests that sugar — which turns into fat if not burned through activity — is even more addictive than dangerous drugs such as cocaine.
If you’re committed to losing weight and achieving a more satisfying lifestyle through healthy means, there are many free websites and apps that can help. The American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine have excellent online fitness resources that provide comprehensive information, including fitness and nutrition plans, which make starting a new lifestyle much easier.
In addition, you don’t need to join your local gym or purchase costly exercise equipment to participate. Simple calisthenics — such as pushups, situps, walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, and taking long walks after dinner — are easy ways to participate in the fitness trend without breaking the bank. There are also many apps that can help you do everything from running your first 5k to completing an Ironman triathlon.
Just like there are plenty of free web-based resources to help you get moving, there are also several options to help you modify your diet. Apps such as MyFitnessPal and Lose It! Make tracking calories and choosing foods much easier. Add in your weight loss goals and daily exercise to see how you can lose weight gradually instead of unsafely. Websites such as AllRecipes.com and Epicurious.com provide free recipes that clearly list ingredients, making healthy decision-making that much easier.
If you prefer more personalized attention, you can also consider visiting a nutritionist and a personal trainer. These trained professionals will take your specific needs into account and monitor your progress as you learn an entirely new way of living.
What if You Can’t Stop Using Drugs
If you suspect that addiction is a problem, you may have noticed certain changes in addition to weight loss. For example, individuals who struggle with addiction often lie about or hide how much they use. Mood swings that include irritability, anxiety or exhaustion are common. Responsibilities at home and work go ignored. Problems with money and relationships grow worse over time. In addition to weight loss or gain, you might also notice problems associated with liver failure, persistent stomach pains or nausea, problems with sleep and an apathetic attitude.
Unfortunately, denial is a chief characteristic of addiction and people who are addicted to drugs are usually the last to understand they have a problem. This is especially true if you or your loved one still maintains a full-time job or lives at home with a supportive family. Addiction is sneaky, and it begins by negatively affecting judgment.
That’s why people who abuse drugs begin a long series of negative decisions, including using recreational drugs to increase or sustain weight loss. When it comes to having a healthy body, there are no shortcuts — there are only solutions that do not include taking recreational drugs.
If you or the person you care about can’t seem to stop using drugs, it may be time to get professional help. Comprehensive addiction treatment programs address withdrawal symptoms, psychological care needs, and lifestyle considerations over an extended period of time. Programs like 12 Keys Rehab include fitness training and healthy nutrition as essential parts of every client’s sobriety program.
If you need help quitting drugs and you want to live a healthier lifestyle that includes a strong and fit physique, contact 12 Keys Rehab.