Medications that provide relief from autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, and depression help people live fuller lives. However, many of these powerful medications have side effects, including weight gain.

In this article, we look at which medications are known to cause weight gain and how people can effectively lose weight that they have gained as a result of taking medication.

A woman pours herself a glass of water, which is one of the ways how to lose weight from medication weight gain.Share on Pinterest
Switching medications, lowering the dosage, and drinking more water may help people lose the weight they gained due to medication use.

Gaining weight because of a medication can be frustrating. Understanding that weight gain is a possible side effect is the first step in combatting it.

Here are some ways to lose weight gained due to medication use:

1. Switch to a different medication

The first strategy to consider involves changing medications. People experience different side effects when taking different drugs.

If weight gain affects a person’s health, a doctor may be able to prescribe a similar medication that is less likely to produce an increase in weight.

2. Lower medication dosage

In some cases, it is possible to lower the dosage of the medication causing weight gain and still get relief from the symptoms of the condition it is treating.

People can first consult their doctor if they consider stopping or reducing their dosage.

3. Limit portion sizes

Appetite sometimes increases when taking certain medications. People on antidepressants, for instance, may find that they have an increased appetite because their mood has improved. However, an increased appetite due to antidepressants may also be due to how the medication affects hunger-regulating hormones.

Reducing portion sizes of high calorie, high fat, and high sugar foods may help manage weight. Increasing portion sizes of high fiber, high volume, and low calorie foods, such as fruits and vegetables, may also support weight management.

4. Exercise

Increased physical activity can also help control weight gain from medication.

A 2021 review suggests that exercise helps reduce the following in people with overweight:

  • body weight
  • total body fat
  • fat surrounding vital internal organs within the abdominal cavity (known as visceral adipose tissue)

Exercise can also help prevent symptoms of depression from returning when people combine it with antidepressant medication.

5. Eat more protein

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance recommends increasing protein intake if medication-related weight gain is a concern. Protein helps people feel fuller for longer.

A 2021 review discovered that diets rich in protein (ranging from 18–59 energy percentage) may have a beneficial effect on body weight management.

6. Talk to a dietitian

Those concerned about weight gain on medication can seek advice from a dietitian to evaluate their current diet. A dietitian can help people with a renewed appetite find a healthy way to satiate their hunger.

7. Avoid alcohol

Some medications that cause weight gain are not safe to take with alcohol. Even if they are taking a medication that is safe alongside alcohol, people may avoid high calorie alcoholic beverages to avoid unnecessary caloric intake.

8. Get enough sleep

Quality sleep is a critical component of health. Poor sleep can have adverse effects on the body, including an increase in fat stores and elevated stress hormone levels.

One 2020 review concluded that short sleep duration is associated with an increased ghrelin level. Ghrelin is the hormone that signals to the brain that a person’s stomach is empty. Meanwhile, sleep deprivation has a significant effect on the levels of both ghrelin and leptin — another appetite-regulating hormone.

9. Drink more water

Some studies suggest that consuming more water may have a weight reducing effect for people dieting for weight loss or maintenance. However, more research is needed on this topic.

10. Reduce salt intake

People on medications that cause water retention, such as corticosteroids, can limit fluid retention by reducing salt intake. A low sodium diet involves consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day.

Common drugs that cause weight gain include:


Antidepressant medications are the first-line treatment option for moderate to severe major depressive disorder. They include:

They have numerous documented adverse events, including weight gain.

Weight gain does not necessarily happen instantly when people take these kinds of medications. A 2018 study found that people were most likely to gain weight 2–3 years into treatment with antidepressants.


Doctors prescribe antipsychotic medications to treat psychosis, which may lead to weight gain.

Examples of such medications include:

With antipsychotics, most weight gain occurs rapidly in the initial period after starting them. The rate of weight gain then gradually decreases and flattens over several months.

Some antipsychotics have a higher likelihood than other drugs of causing an increase in body weight.


Antihistamines are medications often used to relieve symptoms of allergies.

Cetirizine, fexofenadine, and desloratadine are among the most commonly prescribed antihistamines and have been shown to stimulate appetite and weight gain.

Birth control

Birth control is the use of various devices, drugs, agents, sexual practices, or surgical procedures to prevent conception or pregnancy.

According to Planned Parenthood, two methods of birth control that may cause weight gain in some people are the birth control shot and birth control implant.

Weight gain is also listed as a possible side effect of some oral contraceptives, though research has not yet confirmed this.


Corticosteroids are a class of drugs that reduce inflammation and affect how the body stores and uses fat. Examples of this medication include:

Diabetes medications

Diabetes impairs the body’s ability to process blood glucose, otherwise known as blood sugar.

Weight gain is consistently associated with the treatment of diabetes, which includes the following:


Many antiepileptic treatments are associated with weight change.

The most prominent is carbamazepine, which may induce weight gain in 43% of people.


Beta-blockers are drugs that can lower stress on the heart and blood vessels by blocking the action of adrenaline.

They are known to cause weight gain, which usually occurs in the first few months.

Examples include propranolol (Inderal) and metoprolol (Lopressor).

It is important to note that not everyone gains weight when taking medications that have weight gain as a known side effect.

Some medications, such as corticosteroids, cause weight gain by altering the body’s metabolism and influencing water and electrolyte balances.

Others, including antidepressants, may cause mood changes, which may lead to increased appetite. Antipsychotics stimulate appetite and can cause food cravings.

The other side effects of some medications, such as shortness of breath, may make it harder for people to exercise, which can cause weight to increase.

Not everyone who gains weight because of a medication notices it, particularly people who had underweight when they began treatment.

However, a doctor will generally notify a person that they have gained weight since their previous appointment. They might ask about changes in lifestyle habits to assess whether the medication has caused the weight gain.

It can be difficult to confirm the link between weight gain and medication use, especially if the increase in weight is gradual.

In some cases, other lifestyle habits and outside influences can contribute to weight gain, including poor sleep quality.

Weight loss may occur once a person stops taking their medication. However, this will depend on the drug in question and the individual.

People who stop taking antipsychotics usually see gradual weight loss.

Stopping a medication, however, is not always possible, and it can sometimes have serious repercussions.

A person can speak with their doctor before considering stopping a prescribed medication.

Weight gain from medication is not uncommon, and while it can be challenging to deal with, it is often manageable.

Ways to lose weight caused by medication include:

  • switching to a different medication
  • lowering current dosage
  • limiting portion sizes
  • exercising
  • eating more protein

Many medications have weight gain as a side effect. People must weigh the risks and potential drawbacks of stopping or switching medication against the possible side effects, including weight gain.