Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder is an eating disorder characterized by low appetite and poor nutrition. Cocaine can worsen the symptoms.

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a new diagnosis, so medical professionals do not know how common cocaine use is in people with the diagnosis. However, they can look at the prevalence of cocaine use in eating disorders in general.

Some studies show that in women with substance use disorder (SUD) for another stimulant, about one-third of them started using the drug to lose weight. 

Cocaine is a stimulant, so it is likely that a portion of people start using the drug because they want to lose weight or suppress their appetite. Someone who already has ARFID may see cocaine use as a tool to help them suppress the urge to eat.

Article at a Glance:

ARFID is a new eating disorder diagnosis in mental health

Someone with ARFID avoids food to the detriment of their health

Some people use stimulants, like cocaine, to lose weight

Cocaine use can make the symptoms of ARFID worse, but it cannot cause ARFID

Someone with ARFID and cocaine use will need inpatient rehab treatment

What is ARFID?

ARFID is new in the field of mental health.  According to the DSM-V, the diagnostic criteria for ARFID are:

  • The person does not care to eat food, or they avoid food. Avoidance of food causes at least one of the following problems: weight loss, malnutrition, medical feeding, or a negative impact on their lifestyle.
  • Food is available, but they do not eat it.
  • They do not have another eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
  • They do not have a medical condition that causes their food avoidance.

Cocaine use causes symptoms like ARFID, but if someone avoids food because they use cocaine, that does not mean they have ARFID.

However, if someone has ARFID first and uses cocaine to lose weight, they have ARFID and a SUD. Sometimes the disorders will overlap, and it becomes difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Does Cocaine Cause ARFID?

There is not enough research on this topic to know if cocaine causes ARFID. Cocaine use and ARFID can worsen the symptoms of each other. One may lead to another and cocaine use can make the symptoms of ARFID worse.

Does Cocaine Affect ARFID Symptoms?

Some of the physical symptoms of ARFID are:

  • Not growing normally (children and teens)
  • Weight Loss
  • Tiredness
  • The inability to concentrate

Cocaine use can also cause all of these symptoms, even tiredness which happens during the withdrawal period following a cocaine high.

Behavioral symptoms of ARFID are:

  • Being afraid of vomiting or choking
  • Refusing to eat foods they used to eat
  • Slow eating
  • Small or no appetite without a reason
  • The person will not eat meals with family or friends

Cocaine worsens the aforementioned symptoms. While on cocaine, someone may refuse to eat or have a limited appetite. They may not eat with family or friends because they are not hungry or because they want to hide their behavior.

Figuring out whether symptoms are caused by ARFID or cocaine use is very difficult for someone who is not trained to treat these disorders. If you suspect yourself or a loved one has ARFID and uses cocaine, the best treatment is co-occurring rehab.

Treatment Options for ARFID and Co-Occurring Addictions

ARFID and cocaine use together need to be treated in an inpatient rehab center. If one diagnosis has led to another, then a clinician will need to treat both at once for the best treatment.

Inpatient rehab has medical and nutritional resources to treat a co-occurring eating disorder along with cocaine use.

If you suspect a loved one is using cocaine, contact The Recovery Village to get in touch with a representative who can help you learn more about addiction treatment

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS, CACP
Dr. Sheehy completed his BS in Molecular Biology at the University of Idaho and went on to complete his Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read more

Brecht, Mary-Lynn. “Methamphetamine Use Behaviors and Gender Differences.” Addictive Behaviors, 2004. Accessed May 16, 2019.

Killeen, Therese. “Exploring the Relationship between Ea[…]ce Use Disorders.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2015. Accessed May 16, 2019.

Zimmerman, Jacqueline., Fisher, Martin. “Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID).” Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 2017. Accessed May 15, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.