It has long been fashionable as the drug of choice for gaunt models and bone-thin Hollywood stars and now research has confirmed – cocaine does make you SLIM.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge found that chronic use of the drug cripples the body’s ability to store fat.
Previously experts believed cocaine users were slim because the class A drug was suppressing their appetites.
The new research also found that the slimming effects stop when users “go clean” and lead to dramatic weight gain.
That adds further weight to theories that body-conscious users relapse because they become so unhappy at piling on the pounds.
Dr Karen Ersche, from the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cambridge, compared 30 cocaine-dependent men to 30 healthy ones.
She found that the cocaine users actually chose far worse diets than healthy men – opting to eat fatty foods and carbs – but continued to lose more weight.
Meanwhile levels of appetite-controlling hormone leptin in the drug-users’ bodies were cut leading to even severe over-eating, only masked by the cocaine’s slimming effect.
Researchers believe the habitual overeating, and poor diet, only confound the weight-gain when users’ metabolisms slow when they come off the drug.
Dr Ersche said: “We were surprised how little body fat the cocaine users had in light of their reported consumption of fatty food.
“It seems that regular cocaine abuse directly interferes with metabolic processes and thereby reduces body fat.
“This imbalance between fat intake and fat storage may also explain why these individuals gain so much weight when they stop using cocaine.
“For most people weight gain is unpleasant but for people in recovery, who can gain several stones, this weight gain goes far beyond an aesthetic concern but involves both psychological and physiological problems.
“The stress caused by this conspicuous body change can also contribute to relapse.
“It is therefore important that we better understand the effects of cocaine on eating behaviour and body weight to best support drug users on their road to recovery.
“Notable weight gain following cocaine abstinence is not only a source of major personal suffering but also has profound implications for health and recovery.
“Intervention at a sufficiently early stage could have the potential to prevent weight gain during recovery, thereby reducing personal suffering and improving the chances of recovery.”
The research was published yesterday in the August edition of scientific journal Appetite.