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13 Medications That Can Affect Your Appetite

A woman standing in front of a full fridge.

Some medications can make you gain weight or lose weight by increasing or decreasing your appetite. If you are at or near a healthy body weight and you gain or lose a few pounds, it probably doesn’t matter very much. However, if you are already overweight or underweight and the weight loss or weight gain is substantial, it can be more of a problem. Please continue reading to learn more about some medications that can affect appetite.

Which medications can affect appetite?

A large number of medications can affect appetite as a side effect. Some medications increase appetite and cause you to eat food more often, leading to weight gain. Other medications decrease appetite and cause you to consume fewer calories, leading to weight loss. 

In addition, some medications are made specifically to affect appetite. For example, an appetite suppressant, also called a weight loss medication or diet pill, can be incorporated with healthy exercise habits to help you lose weight by causing appetite loss (a reduced urge to eat). FDA-approved appetite suppressants include phentermine (Pro-Fast, Lomaira, Adipex-P), phentermine/topiramate (Qsymia), phendimetrazine, liraglutide (Saxenda), diethylpropion (Tenuate Dospan), and naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave). The newest weight loss drug is semaglutide (Wegovy). 

Besides suppressing appetite, some of these medications are approved to treat other health conditions. For instance, liraglutide, under a different brand name, Victoza, is used to treat type 2 diabetes with a different dosing regimen. Contrave is a combination drug with naltrexone, a drug used for alcohol use disorder and opioid dependence, and bupropion, an antidepressant. You should discuss the risks and benefits of different options for appetite suppressants with your healthcare provider to ensure a safe and effective treatment approach.

Prescription medications, called appetite stimulants, are used to treat lack of appetite in people with mental health conditions, cancer, chronic pain, neurological or musculoskeletal disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and dental problems. Examples of appetite stimulants are dronabinol (Marinol), megestrol (Megace), and mirtazapine.

What medications can increase appetite and cause weight gain?

Some medications can cause weight gain as a side effect by stimulating your appetite and causing you to eat more. Examples of medications that can increase appetite and lead to weight gain include:

What medications can decrease appetite and cause weight loss?

Certain medications can decrease appetite, curb hunger, and lead to weight loss. Most of these medications cause weight loss as the result of their side effects. For example, penicillin disrupts the balance of the “good” bacteria in the GI tract causing nausea, vomiting, and other unpleasant GI symptoms. Stimulant medications work to increase certain brain chemicals; this mechanism helps to curb hunger while increasing energy.  Examples of medications with weight loss as side effects include:

How to manage appetite changes caused by medications? 

If you are experiencing appetite changes due to medication side effects, discuss the options with your healthcare provider. Your provider may give you a lower dose of the medicine causing an increased or decreased appetite. Or they may switch you to another medicine in the same class of drugs. For instance, some antidepressants and anti-seizure medications can cause weight gain, while others can cause weight loss.

It is also worth investigating whether a medication is truly the cause of your change in appetite. For example, taking an antidepressant might have improved your mood, which, in turn, may have increased your appetite. However, the weight gain could be mistakenly attributed to your antidepressant. 

Keep in mind that not everyone experiences the same side effects of medications. Various factors play a role in how a drug affects your appetite. For example, a smoker may gain weight on a medicine while a non-smoker may lose weight. Some medications can lead to weight loss in the short-term but weight gain with long-term use. Your doctor can help you understand the effects of a medicine on your appetite and make an informed decision about whether to continue it.

In patients whose appetite change or weight change is not significant, lifestyle changes like eating healthy meals or eating smaller portions at a higher frequency, along with getting regular exercise, may help to keep body weight in check while continuing treatment with the medication.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is drug-induced loss of appetite?

Drug-induced loss of appetite is when you feel hungry less often due to a side effect of a medication you are taking to treat other health problems. Some medications affect appetite directly by acting on the part of the brain that regulates appetite. Others cause symptoms such as nausea or stomach pain that make you lose your appetite.

Why do I suddenly have no appetite?

Various things can lead to a lack of appetite, such as viral and bacterial infections, digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), other medical conditions such as liver disease and kidney diseases, dental problems such as dry mouth or ill-fitting dentures, mental illnesses such as depression, eating disorders, and drug or alcohol abuse. Not to mention, many medications can cause nausea, vomiting, and GI upset, which can contribute to poor appetite. You should see your healthcare provider if your loss of appetite lasts for more than a week or if you have sudden, unintentional weight loss.

Can blood pressure medicine affect your appetite?

Yes, certain blood pressure medications can affect your appetite. Some medications, such as beta-blockers such as metoprolol and propranolol, can lead to increased appetite. Others, like hydralazine, can lead to a lack of appetite.


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