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Addiction Behavior Brain and Mental Performance Diet

The Connection Between Cocaine and Eating Disorders

1 year, 1 month ago

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Posted on Oct 29, 2021, 1 p.m.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Coined almost a century ago, this proverb represents the importance of diet and nutrition as the first line of defense to keep ourselves healthy. But for some, maintaining a healthy diet is far more difficult. This isn’t because they don’t have access to proper nutrition. Instead, it is because they suffer from ongoing eating disorders. And worse, many who experience these eating disorders are suffering from some type of drug addiction,  with cocaine being one of the more common addictions.

Cocaine: A Keynote or Footnote for Eating Disorders?

The scenario above might sound grim or even unlikely, but the issue of eating disorders and cocaine addiction has been a central focus for substance abuse treatment over the last three decades. Back in 1990, the Orlando Sentinel published an article revealing a new and viral trend for women attempting to lose weight: cocaine use. Journalists began reaching out to various doctors across the nation to see how prevalent this trend was. Eating disorder units reported that as many as 40 percent of their patients had an established history of cocaine abuse. In response, multiple hospitals across the country began modifying their treatment in order to address eating disorders and drug abuse simultaneously. 

While this trend was identified towards the last part of the 20th century, statistics show that the trend of cocaine use since then has steadily increased. This includes both cocaine powder as well as its more potent form, crack cocaine. Although there was a gradual decrease in use in the early 2000s, this seems to account for the rise in the popularity of opioids and methamphetamines. Sadly, the death and overdose rate of cocaine has significantly increased because of dealers cutting it with other substances to maximize profits, as well as users mixing cocaine with opioids and methamphetamines. 

Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that cocaine use or overdose numbers are expected to decrease in the near future. Because of this, we should ask exactly how cocaine addiction relates to eating disorders.

How Cocaine Affects the Appetite

Studies of how the brain works with addiction focus on the release of dopamine as a way to understand how it interacts and responds to the environment it is in. A recent study of the brain’s reward systems revealed that substance use disorders are directly connected to how the brain processes motivation and rewards. When drugs such as cocaine are used, receptor neurons in the brain that are central to this reward system are targeted, meaning that the motivational urge to eat is restricted. In essence, cocaine tricks the body’s central nervous system by suppressing these urges and signals that are part of the brain’s normal function. This explains why cocaine addiction commonly includes eating disorders as well as mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. 

When dopamine receptors are suppressed, the brain can no longer stimulate hunger, and communication with the gastrointestinal system is disrupted. Cocaine use prevents dopamine from being reabsorbed back into the cells, leaving large amounts of the neurotransmitter to act on the nerve cells and halt normal communication, including when the body needs or craves food. This ongoing pattern results in severe consequences to one’s relationship with nutrition and can easily lead to common eating disorders, including bulimia, anorexia, and binge-eating disorder

Substances Abuse versus Sustenance?

It’s easy to assume that drug abuse and nutrition are separate issues, but research shows that there’s an undeniable connection. Substance abuse is not only an issue of introducing harmful toxins into the body. Substance abuse also confuses the body to desire harmful things, while growing indifferent to what it needs for staying healthy. Because of this, the effects of cocaine should not only include what it does to the body, but what it prohibits the body from otherwise doing naturally. 

This is why an important part of recovery is the normalization of neurotransmitter levels such as dopamine that have been badly damaged from cocaine addiction. And while this rebuilding can be done in part by proper nutrition, cocaine abuse is a serious disorder that requires comprehensive treatment. 

This article was written by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.

Content may be edited for style and length.

Materials provided by:

Health Line (2020, July, 06). An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Fact or Fiction? Retrieved from:

Orlando Sentinel. (1990, August, 05). Women Turning to Cocaine to Lose Weight. Retrieved from:

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). The Statistics on Cocaine Use in 2019: How Popular is it? Retrieved from:

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Can Cocaine Kill You? Retrieved from:

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, November, 27). New Discovery on the Brain’s Reward Pathway. Retrieved from:

Delphi Health Group (n.d.). A Guide to Dual Diagnosis Treatment. Retrieved from:

Medical News Today (2019, August, 19). Dopamine vs. Serotonin: Similarities and Differences. Retrieved from:

Delphi Health Group (n.d.). Guide to Cocaine Addiction and Treatment. Retrieved from:

Mayo Clinic (2018, May, 05). Binge-eating Disorder. Retrieved from:

Delphi Health Group (n.d.). Nutrition Therapy with Ciera Buzzel. Retrieved from:

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