Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia have serious health consequences. Taking cocaine to lose weight can make these conditions worse.

Article at a Glance:

Someone with an eating disorder will probably deny the symptoms, and intervention might be required. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder and uses cocaine, consider inpatient rehab for treatment.

There are three main eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder

Cocaine decreases appetite and makes dieting and weight loss easier

For someone with an eating disorder, cocaine is an ideal drug

However, cocaine use is very dangerous and causes malnutrition

Cocaine will never fix the underlying misperception of body image

Withdrawal from cocaine increases appetite and may lead to binging

Eating disorders and cocaine use are co-occurring disorders that might need inpatient rehab

Cocaine and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a group of mental health conditions related to a person’s relationship with food. Cocaine and eating disorders may not sound very dangerous, but they can cause long-term health and medical issues.

Eating disorders fall into three main diagnoses:

  • Anorexia nervosa: A person with anorexia nervosa diets or exercises beyond a healthy level in order to lose weight. People with anorexia have distorted perception and believe themselves to be “fat,” even if they are thin. Anorexia nervosa leads to poor nourishment and low body weight. Someone with anorexia may also binge and purge, similar to bulimia nervosa.
  • Bulimia nervosa: This disorder includes cycles of extreme overeating, or binging, followed by periods of purging. Purging food from the body is done by inducing vomiting before the stomach digests food. They might also take too many laxatives to expel food before it can be absorbed.
  • Binge eating disorder: Binge eating disorder is characterized by periods of overeating followed by feelings of shame and guilt. Someone with binge eating disorder does not purge like someone with bulimia nervosa.

Cocaine is a stimulant and an appetite suppressant that is sometimes used to lose weight. Cocaine and other drugs are dangerous when combined with serious mental health conditions, such as eating disorders. Substance use or misuse can be a way for someone to either self-treat the symptoms or help “correct” the flaws they perceive in their body.

Eating disorders are complex; they are diseases of perception and compulsion. Cocaine will not help someone achieve their desired body image because the eating disorder prevents them from having a healthy body image in the first place.

No matter how much weight loss cocaine causes, people with eating disorders still see themselves as flawed or overweight. Cocaine use may even make this worse as it produces negative impacts on the body.

Does Cocaine Affect Eating Disorders?

Cocaine might initially help with weight loss because it lowers the appetite and increases energy without the need to eat. Cocaine also feels good for people using it (euphoria). Rapid weight loss combined with feelings of euphoria can convince people to keep using cocaine in the short term.

In the long term, cocaine changes the diet of people who use it. They have less body fat than similar peers who do not use cocaine. Cocaine is also associated with unhealthy, high-fat diets as well as higher consumption of alcohol. Even though they eat fattier foods, people who use cocaine have less body fat because of how cocaine alters the metabolism and distribution of fat in the body.

Does Cocaine Cause Eating Disorders?

Cocaine itself probably does not cause eating disorders., Instead, it is used as a “tool” to enable an eating disorder like anorexia. However, people in withdrawal and detox from cocaine do have an increased appetite, and this may put them at a high risk of developing a binge eating disorder.

Why Are Eating Disorders and Cocaine So Intertwined?

Eating disorders and cocaine are intertwined because cocaine causes rapid weight loss, and people are encouraged by the immediate results. Industries like modeling and fashion encourage their workers to be as thin and light as possible, and this can encourage the formation of eating disorders or substance use disorders.

People who use cocaine often have unhealthy diets, which causes damage to the body. The only way to prevent this damage is to stop using cocaine. Rehab is an important first step for those seeking help.

If you suspect a loved one is abusing cocaine or any other lethal substance, immediate intervention is required. Contact The Recovery Village to get in touch with a representative who can help you or your loved one through this process.

Jonathan Strum
Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Conor Sheehy
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

Blanco-Gandía, M. Carmen, and Rodríguez-Arias, Marta. “Bingeing on Fat Increases Cocaine Reward.” 2017. Accessed May 20, 2019.

Byrd, Florence. “Signs of an Eating Disorder.” WebMD. 2011. Accessed May 20, 2019.

Ersche, Karen D., et al. “The Skinny on Cocaine: Insights into Eat[…]caine-Dependent Men.” 2013. Accessed May 20, 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.