The skinny on cocaine: insights into eating behavior and body weight in cocaine-dependent men

Appetite. 2013 Dec:71:75-80. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.07.011. Epub 2013 Aug 3.


There is a general assumption that weight loss associated with cocaine use reflects its appetite suppressing properties. We sought to determine whether this was justified by characterizing, in detail, alterations in dietary food intake and body composition in actively using cocaine-dependent individuals. We conducted a cross-sectional case-control comparison of 65 male volunteers from the local community, half of whom satisfied the DSM-IV-TR criteria for cocaine dependence (n=35) while the other half had no personal or family history of a psychiatric disorder, including substance abuse (n=30). Assessments were made of eating behavior and dietary food intake, estimation of body composition, and measurement of plasma leptin. Although cocaine users reported significantly higher levels of dietary fat and carbohydrates as well as patterns of uncontrolled eating, their fat mass was significantly reduced compared with their non-drug using peers. Levels of leptin were associated with fat mass, and with the duration of stimulant use. Tobacco smoking status or concomitant use of medication did not affect the significance of the results. Weight changes in cocaine users reflect fundamental perturbations in fat regulation. These are likely to be overlooked in clinical practice but may produce significant health problems when cocaine use is discontinued during recovery.

Keywords: Anthropometry; Body weight; Cocaine dependence; Dietary food intake; Fat regulation; Impulsivity–compulsivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Composition
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leptin / blood
  • Male
  • Self Report
  • Thinness / complications
  • Thinness / physiopathology*
  • Weight Loss / drug effects
  • Young Adult


  • Leptin