New study shows link between drug and alcohol use on weight change

Obesity is a major public health problem and notoriously difficult to treat. Although the web is infested with insightful information on various ways to combat obesity and avoiding several diseases associated with it – there still is however,  a worrying absence of material on the relationship between weight, alcohol and other drugs.

There are many parallels between obesity/overeating and addictions to alcohol and drugs. What we have gathered from several reports, is that substance abuse dramatically alters the diet and in most cases, often leads to irregular eating patterns and poor nutrition. As a result, previously healthy adolescents and adults may begin to experience significant health problems shortly after the substance abuse begins.

How exactly does this happen? And what are the effects of alcohol on body weight?

alcohol abuse








According to Dr Karen Vieira, a research scientist with a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the University Of Florida College Of Medicine Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology:

“Alcohol abuse not only disrupts the body’s ability to extract nutrients from food and transport them to different parts of the body, but it also causes intestinal damage. When the intestines become irritated, digestive processes either slow down or stop and this may lead to a loss of appetite, constipation and an intestinal blockage. All of these symptoms cause people to eat less and begin to lose weight.”

Viera adds that eating less means that not enough nutrients will be consumed and as a person’s weight continues to drop, poor nutrition may begin to cause a number of health problems which may include:

Eating disorders

Tooth decay

High cholesterol

Heart disease

Heart attack and stroke

High blood pressure




Certain types of cancer (e.g., liver)

Increased risk of death

Vieira further explains that consuming alcohol on an empty stomach is another harmful habit that can cause blood sugar to drop to dangerously low levels. Overtime, alcohol abuse may even lead to glucose intolerance and type-2 diabetes because the liver focuses too much energy on processing and excreting the toxins that alcohol produces.

Alcohol abuse can also lead to fluctuations in weight due to its effect on the brain. If the stomach is empty, alcohol can quickly leave the stomach and reach the brain. This process is slowed when there is food in the stomach, but if a large amount of alcohol is consumed, it can still reach the bloodstream, liver, and the brain much more quickly than the nutrients contained in the food.

The effects of drugs on body weight

prescription drugs








Recreational, illicit, and prescription medication all influence various mental processes. Certain drugs may cause temporary cognitive impairments after taking just a single dose. If this happens a person may forget to eat properly, begin to lose weight and develop dangerously low blood sugar. Individuals who begin to abuse drugs may eventually suffer from permanent impairments in brain activity as well as physical changes that lead to dramatic weight loss and poor health.

Click on the link below to read about different types of drugs and how they affect your body weight.


Watch the video below where Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse discusses the link between substance use and obesity