Bipolar Pharmacotherapy and Weight Gain: Studies and Statistics

  • 18 January 2016
  • Petra_1

The U.S. is grappling with a serious health problem due to its increasingly overweight and obese population. Nearly 100 million adults are either overweight (BMI of at least 25) or obese (BMI of at least 30). The list of chronic illnesses linked to carrying the excess body weight is quite extensive, and it includes illnesses like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, heart disease, and even dyslipidemia.

The risks of getting chronic illnesses associated with being overweight or obese begin to rise immediately an individual's weight rises above the normal range. So, even adults who have had normal weight all their lives should expect to witness an increase in their chances of suffering from a chronic illness as soon as they begin to put on weight.

Among the most notable causes of weight gain is the use of prescription medications, particularly those with a psychiatric and neurological bent. Consequently, it is important to take into consideration the capacity for such medications to result in weight gain in patients. Understanding this link can help minimize the risk that a patient will end up being overweight or obese after taking common medications. Already, it has been shown that medications often result in metabolic changes that often manifest themselves through weight gain.

As a matter of fact, studies of this nature have been done in the past to understand the relationship, if any, between prescription medications and weight gain. Two studies, each involving 7,000 psychiatrists treating bipolar disorder patients, were conducted.

Nearly 66% of the psychiatrists who responded admitted that as many as 60% of their bipolar patients were heavier than normal. Also noteworthy was the fact that almost 40% of the responding psychiatrists said that as many as 40% of their patients experienced metabolic issues.

More worrying was the fact that a whopping 96% of the psychiatrists claimed that their bipolar disorder patients ended up experiencing a 20-pound weight increase after using some of the common medications for this psychiatric problem. The psychiatrists even went on to investigate the impact of various bipolar medications on the weight of their patients, and the results were groundbreaking.

The participating psychiatrists were able to note with concern that some medications, in particular clozapine and olanzapine, had significant impacts on the patients through weight gain. These medications also messed up the lipid and glucose metabolisms of their patients.

Some bipolar disorder medications only resulted in mild weight gain and metabolic issues, for instance, quetiapine and risperidone. Fortunately, some of the treatments seemed to pose no health risks to the bipolar patients, both in terms of weight gain or metabolic disruptions. Examples of these medications include aripiprazole and carbamazepine.

After becoming aware of the impacts various treatment agents had on their patients, the psychiatrists took into consideration the physical effects of each medication before prescribing it to the patient. With broader recognition of the fact that some bipolar disorder medications can cause substantial weight gain and metabolic disturbances in the patients, prescription behaviors among psychiatrists will change in favor of medications that do not not promote weight gain among patients, and by extension, the risk of serious chronic illnesses.