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Subst Use Misuse. 2019;54(5):769-778. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2018.1536722. Epub 2018 Dec 21.

Explaining Excessive Weight Gain during Early Recovery from Addiction.

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a Department of Health Behavior , UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health , Chapel Hill , NC , USA.



Many people receiving treatment for addiction gain an excessive amount of weight during early recovery. We outline two hypothesized mechanisms that might explain weight gain: The Addiction Transfer Hypothesis, which suggests that some individuals respond to cravings with non-nutritive eating behavior, and the Propensity for Behavioral Addiction Hypothesis, which suggests that some people are at higher risk for addiction, and that excess weight gain results from a rebound of appetitive processes that were temporarily suppressed during active addiction.


We evaluate the extent of support for these alternative hypotheses using repeated measures of cravings and eating behavior collected in real time using a combination of ecological momentary assessment methodology and interviewer-based 24-hour dietary recall. Participants included Nā€‰=ā€‰111 individuals receiving treatment for substance use disorder who were currently abstaining from use, but who had used their primary treatment substance within the past 12 months.


Using linear mixed models to test the temporal effects of cravings on subsequent eating behaviors hypothesized by the Addiction Transfer Hypothesis and generalized linear models to evaluate the effect of a common propensity for behavioral addiction factor on eating behaviors (a test of the Propensity for Behavioral Addiction Hypothesis), we find no evidence to support the Addiction Transfer Hypothesis, but we find modest support for the Propensity for Behavioral Addiction Hypothesis. Findings do not account for appetitive effects of psychotropic medications.


General nutrition education and encouragement of health eating behaviors may be useful for reducing excessive weight gain among people recovering from substance dependence.


24-hour recall; Behavioral addiction; addiction recovery; addiction transfer; ecological momentary assessment; excessive weight gain

[Available on 2020-01-01]

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