Strattera (Atomoxetine) is a relatively well-known NRI (norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) that is commonly used for the treatment of ADHD. Its mechanism of action involves inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, thereby increasing extracellular levels. This tends to result in a stimulating effect, which boosts overall cortical activity and helps improve cognitive function among those who have a tough time with concentration.
There are also investigational uses for this drug which include: an adjunct treatment in cases of refractory depression, as well as among individuals with comorbid ADHD and depression. Many doctors also favor this drug over amphetamine-based ADHD medications for the obvious fact that it is considered non-addictive and tends to yield less withdrawal symptoms. That said, many people note side effects throughout their treatment, one of which may be weight loss.
Strattera and Weight Loss
In comparison to amphetamines and stimulant-based drugs used to treat ADHD, Strattera is NOT very likely to cause weight loss. With a drug like Adderall or Vyvanse, a person is virtually guaranteed to lose some weight. Strattera doesn’t tend to affect dopamine to the extent of amphetamines, which means it is less likely to interfere with normal appetite and eating habits. That said, this drug does increase stimulation via the increase of norepinephrine, which can lead to a quicker metabolism, more energy, and weight loss.
How Strattera Works for Weight Loss
Strattera may cause weight loss in a variety of different ways including: appetite reduction, increased nausea, and speeding up metabolism. It is also important to keep in mind that anytime a drug is stimulating, it may give a person more energy that they can use to engage in physical activity – which also leads to weight loss.
- Appetite loss: It is estimated that nearly 1/6 people lose their appetite when taking this medication. Appetite loss can be triggered by increasing the amount of norepinephrine in the brain. This could lead a person to feel nauseated or simply not as hungry as they would normally be. The degree to which a person loses their appetite often varies based on the individual. If you notice that you aren’t getting as hungry as before taking this drug, this is probably why you’re losing weight.
- Cognitive enhancement: The fact that Strattera works well to improve cognitive function supports the idea that it could lead a person to make smarter food choices and/or avoid junk food. People that aren’t thinking clearly as a result of ADHD may eat unhealthy or may not realize that it’s important to keep tabs on their dietary intake. The cognitive boost provided by this drug may indirectly affect the way a person structures their diet and exercise.
- Fight-or-flight response: Since this is a stimulating drug and can trigger the fight-or-flight response (sympathetic nervous system) in the body, this may lead to weight loss. When the sympathetic nervous system is triggered, it often reduces our appetite and uses up fat stores within the body. Some believe that over the short-term, this fight-or-flight response reduces food cravings and promotes weight loss.
- Increased energy: For many people, Strattera is an “activating” medication in that it provides them with increased energy. This is why some people who lack energy find Strattera helps with depression. If you notice that your energy level has significantly increased once you started taking the drug, this alone can lead to weight loss. When you have more energy, you’re more likely to move around and engage in physical activity.
- Motivation boost: This medication also tends to improve a person’s level of motivation. By increasing your motivation, this can have indirect carryover to health and fitness. You may become more motivated to take care of your body and get into better shape. Motivation goes a long way towards determining whether someone works out vs. remains sedentary.
- Norepinephrine increase: By increasing the amount of extracellular norepinephrine, this drug often helps improve cognition, vigilance, alertness, and energy. This is a stimulating neurotransmitter that also functions as a hormone. When levels of norepinephrine increase, you may be more likely to move around, you may not feel as hungry, and your metabolism could increase.
- Physical activity: When taking this drug, some people notice that they get an urge to “work out” or stay active. This is directly related to the increase in energy that the drug provides the body. When you increase norepinephrine, it stimulates the entire CNS, which leads to greater energy. Many people need to “burn” or use up this excess energy by exercising while on the drug – which keeps metabolism high and burns calories.
- Self-control: This drug improves brain function and can make you more self-aware and less likely to engage in impulsive behavior. The impulse control from the drug may help you resist unhealthy foods and may make you more diligent in maintaining healthy habits.
- Side effects: Increasing norepinephrine can result in experiencing nausea. In fact, more than 1/4 people report nausea as a result of their treatment with Strattera. The propensity of this medication to cause nausea could be reason as to why people don’t eat as much and/or lose their appetite. Other side effects like diarrhea and vomiting may directly lead to weight loss for obvious reasons.
- Speeds metabolism: If you were eating the same portions and foods prior to taking this drug, haven’t made major alterations in your exercise regimen, and are losing weight – it could be due to a faster metabolism. This is a stimulant drug and has potential to alter metabolic functions in some individuals, leading to weight loss.
Note: It is important to realize that there is often considerable variation among individuals in regards what factors directly contribute to weight loss. One person may lose weight because they are extremely nauseous, while another may lose weight simply because the drug speeds their metabolism. A third person may experience such an energy boost that they work out like a maniac. Recognizing these individual differences is important.
Factors that influence weight loss on Strattera
Since different people react differently to Strattera in terms of weight, it is important to understand why. Differences in weight change from this drug may be due to a person’s: dosage, how long they’ve taken the drug, their lifestyle, genetic factors, as well as usage of other drugs.
Many people are administered dosing of Strattera based on their bodyweight – especially among children. Those that weigh less tend to take less of the drug, while those who weigh more are more likely to take more of the drug. The dosage in relationship to your weight is likely to play a role in determining how much weight you end up losing.
Those that take higher doses of the drug are more likely to experience adverse reactions as well as weight loss. This is due to the fact that at higher doses, more norepinephrine floods the brain, leading to increased central nervous system stimulation. The more stimulated your nervous system, the less likely you’ll be hungry and the more overall energy you’re likely to have. Those that want to minimize the amount of weight loss they experience should aim for taking the “minimal effective dose.”
2. Time Span
How long have you been taking Strattera? If you’ve only been on it for a short-term, you’re less likely to experience major changes in weight. However, those that have taken the drug for a moderate amount of time (i.e. months) may notice a significant shift from their baseline pre-drug weight.
Those that have taken the drug over a long-term (i.e. years) may notice that some of the weight that they lost after a moderate amount of time started to come back. If you lose weight and it eventually returns, it could be due to the fact that you’ve developed tolerance over time.
3. Lifestyle / Habits
Your individual lifestyle and personal habits may be responsible for weight changes you experience while on this (or any) medication. Two people could be taking the same dosage with similar genetics, but if one person is eating a poor diet and doesn’t exercise – they may not lose as much weight as the other person. It is important to consider the amount of sleep you’re getting, your stress level, hormone levels, diet, and exercise habits can play a role in determining how much weight you lose on this drug.
Many people take the same drug and for some it results in weight loss, while others’ weight doesn’t change. This could be due to certain genetic variations that respond to the medication. Understand that you may have a particular set of genes that make you more likely to lose weight on Strattera. Fortunately there are new technologies such as GeneSight which analyze your genetic code and predict responses to various psychotropic medications.
5. Other drugs
If you are taking other medications, these could be playing a major role in whether you lose weight on Strattera. If you’re taking a medication like an antipsychotic or SSRI antidepressant, you may end up gaining weight. This is due to the fact that these drugs tend to make people gain weight. Similarly, taking another stimulating medication with Strattera could result in amplified weight loss.
Most stimulating medications tend to speed up the nervous system, give people more energy, and boost metabolism. Other recreational and illicit drugs like alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco may also influence your weight. If you use any of these substances, it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact degree to which each substance is influencing your weight.
How much weight will you lose on Strattera?
It is difficult to determine exactly how much weight you’re likely to lose on Strattera until you actually take it. As was already mentioned, there are many individualized factors that determine whether you’re likely to lose weight on this medication. There have been several (relatively rare) cases of individuals losing over 30 lbs. in just 2 months of treatment.
Generally this is a pretty significant amount of weight to lose in such a short-term, but can happen. Some also speculate that weight loss may be more likely to occur among children taking this medication. Keep in mind that most people on this drug may lose a little weight, but it isn’t regarded as medically significant.
Will everyone lose weight from Strattera?
No. It is important to understand that according to medical reports, only 2% of those taking Strattera actually end up experiencing weight loss. Some people report significant weight loss during the first few weeks of treatment, but the next few weeks they may gain all of that weight back. It is important to understand that just because you (or your friend) lost weight on this medication that others may not have the same reaction. Those that experience a reduced appetite as a side effect are more likely to end up losing weight than those who don’t.
Analyzing Strattera’s therapeutic benefits vs. side effects
If you are taking Strattera, it is important to assess its therapeutic effects in comparison to unwanted side effects that you are experiencing. If the drug is working well to treat ADHD, you may be able to justify putting up with a few unwanted side effects during your treatment. On the other hand, if the drug isn’t working very well, and you are experiencing an array of side effects such as nausea, lack of appetite, and weight loss – you may want to talk to your doctor about switching medications and/or Strattera withdrawal.
Assuming you are a person that has lost weight on the medication, is this a side effect that you like or dislike? Those that are overweight may really like losing some weight as a result taking Strattera, while others who are already slim may really dislike the weight loss. If you ever feel as if the amount of weight you are losing is unsafe, be sure to talk to your doctor about possible solutions.
Using the drug for its indented purpose…
Although this drug has minimal potential for abuse, some people may intentionally use this drug in hopes that they lose weight. It is important to understand that the primary purpose of Strattera is not to induce weight loss – it’s to treat symptoms of ADHD. Often times people get so caught up in chasing weight loss, that they forget how beneficial the treatment actually may be for their attentional deficit. Using any medication for ulterior purposes is irresponsible as a patient.
Did you lose weight while taking Strattera?
If you have experience taking Strattera and noticed that you ended up losing weight, be sure to share your story in the comments section below. To help others to accurately understand your experience, be sure to include details such as the dosage you were taking, how long you took it, and whether any other factors may have contributed to your weight loss. Also mention how you believe the drug worked to induce weight loss (e.g. nausea, loss of appetite, etc.).