Email A FriendEmail A Friend   ShareShare   TweetTweet   Linked-InLinked-In

Link Between Antipsychotic Drugs & Weight Gain

August 25th, 2021

Antipsychotic drugs are commonly prescribed to treat conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. However, many patients experience weight gain while taking these medications – a side effect that has puzzled medical professionals for years.

Research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has revealed that dopamine – a chemical that binds receptors in the brain to control feelings of pleasure, motivation, and learning – plays a more complex role in the body than previously thought. The team of researchers, led by Despoina Aslanoglou, PhD, showed that dopamine signaling is also involved in the regulation of key metabolic processes within the pancreas.

The researchers determined that the pancreas uses dopamine to finely tune blood sugar levels. But antipsychotic drugs block dopamine’s ability to signal within the pancreas, which prevents the body from being able to properly regulate blood sugar. 

Ultimately, improper blood sugar regulation can lead to the development of obesity and diabetes. Aslanoglou and her team suggest that future work involve the development of more specific drugs to target dopamine signaling in order to separate its mental and metabolic effects.

Interested in mental health research studies? Visit Pitt+Me to learn more.