Antidepressants That Cause Weight Loss

Use of antidepressants has been linked to diminished libido in both men and women. So long term usage of these medications has to be avoided.

Antidepressants are primarily used to treat depression but can also be effective for other mental illnesses such as anxiety and panic attacks. Some of these antidepressants promote weight loss. This may sound surprising considering that they are formulated to treat mental illnesses. However, like any other medication, antidepressant does produce side effects that sometimes manifest in the form of weight loss.

Antidepressants and Weight Loss
Atypical Antidepressants
Bupropion sold under the brand name Wellbutrin may help to reduce weight. It is often prescribed to manage depression and ADHD symptoms. People who have been taking this antidepressant do experience a sharp drop in their appetite. One may not feel hungry with bupropion. This lack of appetite associated with bupropion reduces calorie intake, crucial to lose weight. The efficacy of bupriopion in reducing weight is far better than other antidepressants. Up to 28% of people lost their weight to an appreciable degree as found in few studies. However, bupropion is notorious for causing seizures, hence taking it in the correct dosage is extremely important. Also, avoid taking generic bupropion as it may cause severe side effects.
SSRIs, another group of antidepressants may reduce weight (although insignificant) but again it occurs as a side effect. Loss of appetite is a common complaint in people taking SSRIs. This diminished desire to eat food over an extended period of time may eventually cause weight loss. However, only a small fraction of people experience weight loss with intake of SSRIs. These antidepressants cause nausea, hence the person’s desire to have food reduces drastically. Apart from nauseating feeling, SSRIs may cause vomiting and diarrhea that may together contribute in losing weight. Following are the antidepressants in the SSRI family that may lead to weight loss.

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Celexa (citalopram)

Prozac does help to shed extra pounds but when used for an extended period of time, it can reverse the weight loss effect. In a study that lasted for more than a year, subjects put on Prozac started losing weight but after 6 months, participants began to regain lost weight. Thus, long-term use of Prozac may actually lead to weight gain. So, short-term use of this medication under medical guidance may contribute to weight loss.

As far as weight loss associated with Zoloft is concerned, only a small fraction of people have had success with this medication. People who have had the habit of taking heavy meals were able to successfully control their appetite when put on Zoloft.
On the other hand, Celexa deters you from impulsive eating, which may help to lose weight. The drug tends to suppress the appetite as reported by people taking Celexa. Some have lost as much as 10 pounds after taking Celexa for 4 weeks. Others have lost 6-8 pounds in just 2 weeks. People who use Celexa experience an energy boost and moreover are able to inculcate good eating habits. Of course, one cannot forget that this effect of Celexa has been observed only in small number of people.
SNRIs are another type of antidepressants that may cause side effects such as weight loss. Taking SNRIs like Cymbalta (duloxetine) that is also used for the treatment of fibromyalgia may kill your appetite and also make you lose weight. Clinical trials have found that Cymbalta suppressed appetite in only 9% of patients. So, ideally the same number of patients should have experienced weight loss. However, weight loss was observed in just 2% of patients. Also, quite a few individuals initially had a consistent weight loss for 3 weeks but later on not only the appetite increased but the amount of pounds lost were also insignificant.
Effexor (venlafaxine), also belonging to the SNRI family may also help you to lose weight. This again has been attributed to its side effects such as lack of appetite and nausea that may eventually cause weight loss. Initially, Effexor in small doses may cause weight loss of one or two pounds but as you increase the dosage you may lose as many as 10 pounds. However, side effects associated with increased dosage of Effexor such as drowsiness and extreme fatigue can be quite bothersome.
There is no guarantee that the aforementioned antidepressants will help to lose weight. Some of these medications may actually lead to weight gain. Change in weight is just a side effect of these antidepressants. So, one may experience weight loss or weight gain depending upon how the body reacts after taking these medicines. To put it simply, it all boils down to your body chemistry. Antidepressants tend to lower metabolic rate, hence there is always a higher risk of gaining weight.
Antidepressants for Weight Loss: Dangers
Antidepressants are often regarded as an unconventional form of treatment for weight loss. No wonder, these drugs have not received approval from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for such purposes due to their horrible effects. Also, popping these pills without working on a diet and having a regular exercise regime will not give the desired result. A recent study revealed that the drug bupropion was useful for the treatment of obesity only when the patients continued with their prescribed diet and exercise. Taking these drugs but leading a sedentary lifestyle won’t bring the desired change in weight.
A point to note here is that antidepressants are basically helpful in the treatment of mood disorders, so using them as a weight loss tool does not sound a good proposition. Prolong use of these antidepressants can alter the chemical equilibrium of the brain, a factor responsible for triggering suicidal behavior. Also, expecting significant reduction in weight from these antidepressants is meaningless. Weight loss linked to usage of antidepressants is small. Hence, using these medications and forgetting exercise and diet is the least effective strategy to combat overweight problems.
Remember, these medicines that promote weight loss should be consumed under the supervision of a qualified doctor. The patient’s health should also be monitored carefully for any possible side effects. Remember, these drugs might help to lose weight only when used in combination with diet and exercise.