Antipsychotic-associated weight gain: management strategies and impact on treatment adherence

Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017 Aug 22:13:2231-2241. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S113099. eCollection 2017.


Antipsychotic-induced weight gain is a major management problem for clinicians. It has been shown that weight gain and obesity lead to increased cardiovascular and cerebrovascular morbidity and mortality, reduced quality of life and poor drug compliance. This narrative review discusses the propensity of various antipsychotics to cause weight gain, the pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions available to counteract this effect and its impact on adherence. Most antipsychotics cause weight gain. The risk appears to be highest with olanzapine and clozapine. Weight increases rapidly in the initial period after starting antipsychotics. Patients continue to gain weight in the long term. Children appear to be particularly vulnerable to antipsychotic-induced weight gain. Tailoring antipsychotics according to the needs of the individual and close monitoring of weight and other metabolic parameters are the best preventive strategies at the outset. Switching to an agent with lesser tendency to cause weight gain is an option, but carries the risk of relapse of the illness. Nonpharmacologic interventions of dietary counseling, exercise programs and cognitive and behavioral strategies appear to be equally effective in individual and group therapy formats. Both nonpharmacologic prevention and intervention strategies have shown modest effects on weight. Multiple compounds have been investigated as add-on medications to cause weight loss. Metformin has the best evidence in this respect. Burden of side effects needs to be considered when prescribing weight loss medications. There is no strong evidence to recommend routine prescription of add-on medication for weight reduction. Heterogeneity of study methodologies and other confounders such as lifestyle, genetic and illness factors make interpretation of data difficult.

Keywords: antipsychotics; metabolic; treatment adherence; weight gain; weight-reducing agents.

Publication types

  • Review