Cocaine's appetite for fat and the consequences on body weight.
For many individuals in treatment for cocaine dependence, weight gain is a substantial problem during recovery. This weight gain causes significant distress and seems to increase the risk of relapse. The mechanisms underlying cocaine's effects on weight remain elusive. It is widely assumed that this weight gain reflects a metabolic or behavioural compensatory response to the cessation of cocaine use. Here we challenge this assumption and outline potential mechanisms by which chronic cocaine use produces disturbances in the regulation of fat intake and storage, through its effects on the central and peripheral nervous systems, specifically the sympathetic nervous system. We hypothesize that the cocaine-induced alteration in fat regulation results in cocaine users developing a pronounced appetite for fatty food but keeps their fat mass low. This altered fat appetite subsequently leads to excessive weight gain when individuals enter treatment and stop using cocaine. Our aim is to shed light on the neurobiological mechanisms that may underlie the alterations in eating and fat regulation in cocaine-dependent individuals, to open up potential new avenues to support these individuals in recovery.
Medical Research Council (G0001354)