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How Can Drugs Impact Your Appetite And Digestive System?

Nancy MacGregor MA, ATR-BC, LPC, ACS, Clinical Director

Your digestive system is made up of multiple organs, such as your mouth, stomach, esophagus, intestines, liver, and pancreas. This is where your body turns nutrients into energy that can help you maintain a healthy body and even stimulate growth. Like the rest of the body, drugs can have an effect on your appetite and digestive system. Some drugs can be used specifically for appetite suppression, appetite stimulation, weight loss, and weight gain. Some people may even continue using drugs due to these effects.  One of the reasons you should never drink alcohol on an empty stomach is that it increases the acidity within your stomach. The increase of stomach acids can contribute to ulcers in your gastrointestinal tract. Alcohol can also kill bacteria that lives in your gut, mouth, and esophagus. And not all bacteria is bad, so it can even kill the good bacteria which can cause problems with your digestion.  You may have heard of the “munchies” where when high on marijuana, you might feel an increase in your appetite. This can cause you to eat more than you normally would or things that you wouldn’t normally consume. For this reason, marijuana is often used for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy to help them keep their appetite. Chemo patients can also benefit from marijuana’s ability to decrease feelings of nausea and vomiting.  


There are different ways of ingesting marijuana including smoking, vaping, adding into food and beverages, tinctures, or topicals. It’s important to note that sometimes smoking or vaping marijuana can cause stinging or burning in your mouth and throat, which are part of your digestive system.  Mostly used as a party drug, cocaine is known to give bursts of energy and suppress your appetite. Too much can cause stomach pain, as well as nausea and vomiting. While decreased appetite can sound appealing, long-term it can lead to drastic weight loss and malnourishment, which can bring on a number of other issues.  


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cocaine can impair tissue in the bowels and cause pain in the abdomen. Stomach ulcers, abdominal bleeding, and reduced blood flow to the GI system can also be found in long-term cocaine users.  Opiates are typically prescribed to treat different types of pain. However, prescription medications like opiates can cause significant damage to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Opiates, whether prescribed or not, can often cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Prolonged use can cause severe bowel syndromes that slow down the bowel functions which can be rather uncomfortable. While the good side effects of drugs on the GI tract can be good, the bad can be extremely unpleasant. The best way to reverse any negative side effects is by stopping all drug use. Of course, you will want to consult your doctor or medical professional before doing so. Prolonged drug use can cause withdrawal which can be very dangerous if not overseen by a professional.  At Harmony Bay Wellness, we offer integrative wellness services that can be paired with traditional therapy services for a more comprehensive mental health treatment plan. Integrative wellness services, like nutrition and diet counseling, can help you achieve optimal health and quality of life. Sometimes it can include medication-assisted treatment. To learn more about the therapies we offer, contact Harmony Bay Wellness today by calling 855.857.6050.  

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