Contrave Side Effects: Headache, Nausea, Constipation, Sleep

Contrave is the brand name for a medication with the drug name naltrexone HCl/bupropion HCl. 

This medication is intended to treat obesity in adults.

While it’s not exactly clear how Contrave works to help with weight loss, research shows it appears to reduce cravings and hunger, which aids in weight loss.

Like any weight loss drug, Contrave medication comes with potential side effects along with the potential benefit of weight loss. 

In this article, we’ll review the most common side effects of Contrave diet pills, do side effects of Contrave go away, and offer tips on taking Contrave to reduce these adverse effects.

Contrave side effects and how to reduce them

1) Nausea and vomiting

You might feel nauseous while taking Contrave. The feeling of nausea can worsen into vomiting for some people.

If you’re feeling nauseous and vomiting from Contrave, here are some suggestions on how to alleviate these unpleasant side effects.

Take the medication with food

Avoid taking your Contrave diet pill on an empty stomach, which can worsen side effects like nausea and vomiting. 

Eat bland foods

Avoid eating greasy and spicy foods, which can worsen nausea. Instead, opt for a BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. 

In other words, choose plain, easy-to-digest foods until your nausea improves.

Try ginger

Ginger is a known natural remedy for nausea. Try sucking on ginger candies or sipping on ginger ale to soothe your upset stomach.

Use over-the-counter remedies as suggested by your healthcare provider

If your nausea is persistent, your healthcare provider might suggest an over-the-counter medication to help you as your body gets used to Contrave.

2) Constipation

Constipation is when you have difficulty having a bowel movement or having very hard bowel movements. 

Individuals experiencing constipation while using Contrave may consider the following:

Increase your fluid intake

Drinking plenty of water can help alleviate constipation by allowing bowel movements to be less dry and hard.

Focus on fiber

Eating plenty of fiber is one of the best ways to promote regular bowel movements. Focus on foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds (while also drinking plenty of fluids) to ease constipation.

Get moving

Physical activity can stimulate your digestive system and help alleviate constipation.

Increase healthy fat intake

Boosting your fat intake can alleviate constipation in some cases. Adding olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish like salmon to the menu might help with constipation.

3) Headache

Headache is a common potential side effect of Contrave medication. Suggestions to alleviate headaches while on Contrave:

Stay hydrated

Many causes of headaches are linked to minor dehydration. Aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water or other unsweetened clear fluids.

Take OTC medications as advised by your healthcare provider

If your healthcare provider says it’s okay, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help alleviate headaches.

Drink caffeine in moderation

Drinking a small amount of caffeine can help alleviate headaches in some instances, especially if you’re already used to drinking some caffeine.

Make sure you don’t drink too much caffeine (more than 400 milligrams, or around four 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee per day), as this can cause sleep disturbances and worsen other side effects like diarrhea and nausea. 

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4) Dizziness and blood pressure changes

If you feel a bit lightheaded or woozy on Contrave, you might be a bit worried. This is a common side effect and should stop as your body gets used to the medication.

Strategies to minimize dizziness during Contrave use:

Avoid alcohol

Drinking alcohol on Contrave can make you feel more lightheaded.

Stay hydrated 

Dehydration (especially if it’s due to nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) can lead to low blood pressure, which can worsen dizziness. 

Sip on clear liquids like broth and sports drinks if you’re unable to keep much down due to nausea and vomiting.

Get out of bed slowly

Your blood pressure is lowest in the morning. Getting out of bed too quickly in the morning can cause orthostatic hypotension, which is when your blood pressure drops when standing.

To avoid this, be slow to sit upright in bed and then sit there for a few minutes before standing. If you bend over (such as to pick something off the floor), be slow to rise to prevent dizziness from orthostatic hypotension.

5) Difficulty sleeping

Insomnia or trouble sleeping might occur while taking Contrave. If you’re having a difficult time sleeping, try some of the following to promote sleep:

Take a warm bath with Epsom salts before bed

The magnesium in Epsom salts can help promote relaxation and might help you drift off to sleep more easily.

Try relaxing herbal teas like chamomile or sleepytime teas

These herbs are known for their relaxing effects and might help you get better sleep.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime

6) Diarrhea

Diarrhea is when you have loose or watery bowel movements, which can occur once or multiple times per day. 

Persistent diarrhea can lead to dehydration and electrolyte loss, so it should be monitored.

For those encountering diarrhea while taking Contrave, here are some general suggestions:

Temporarily reduce your fiber intake

Fiber is an important and healthy nutrient, but it can worsen diarrhea. If you eat a high-fiber diet, cut back on fiber temporarily until your diarrhea improves, and then gradually increase it back into your diet.

Eat foods that thicken your stool

Lower-fiber foods like white rice, white pasta, cheese, enriched wheat products (bread, crackers, etc), and applesauce might help thicken your stool and relieve diarrhea.

Sip on broth or sports drinks

For severe diarrhea, replenishing lost electrolytes like sodium is important. Broth and sports drinks provide sodium and help you stay hydrated.

7) Dry mouth

Dry mouth (xerostomia) is an unpleasant but common potential side effect of Contrave. Some individuals find relief through these measures:

Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candies

This can promote saliva production.

Avoid smoking, caffeine, and drinking alcohol

Breathe through your nose

Mouth breathing can worsen dry mouth.

Do Contrave’s side effects go away & how long do they last?

Most side effects of Contrave will improve and resolve over a few weeks after you start taking it. 

Some people might have side effects from Contrave that persist beyond a few weeks, while others might not experience any side effects.

If your side effects are severe after several weeks of taking Contrave at your target dose, speak to your healthcare provider.

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Are there any long-term complications from Contrave?

There are a few potential long-term side effects of Contrave, though they are rare. The most significant long-term side effects of Contrave include:

Liver damage

Some people might develop liver damage from Contrave. Your healthcare provider can monitor your liver function while you take Contrave to prevent this from happening.

Angle-closure glaucoma

If you’re at risk for glaucoma (a disease that damages the optic nerve in your eye), you might not be a good candidate for Contrave because it can worsen glaucoma.

Adverse reactions from Contrave in elderly patients


One of the biggest risks of Contrave side effects in the elderly is dizziness. Dizziness in older adults can lead to falls and serious injuries compared to younger people taking Contrave.

Kidney problems

In addition, studies show that older people might be at risk of developing kidney problems due to dehydration from persistent diarrhea or vomiting. 

Healthcare providers can monitor for signs of dehydration and kidney damage in elderly patients taking Contrave.

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Side effects of stopping Contrave

If Contrave was helping you to lose weight, the main possible side effect of stopping Contrave is gaining weight. 

If you were experiencing side effects from Contrave, they’ll likely dissipate after you stop taking the medication.

Other than that, there aren’t any adverse side effects of stopping Contrave. However, you should only discontinue Contrave use as advised by your healthcare provider.


  • Contrave is a medication used to help aid in weight loss in adults 18 years of age and older.
  • The main possible side effects of Contrave include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, dry mouth, headache, and difficulty sleeping.
  • Most of Contrave’s side effects will ease in severity or dissipate after several weeks of taking the medication. If symptoms are severe or persist longer than that, reach out to your healthcare provider.
  • Rare but serious potential long-term side effects of taking Contrave include glaucoma (eye disease) and liver problems. Your healthcare provider can monitor you for signs of these problems before they become severe.
  • In elderly people, the most significant Contrave side effects of concern are dizziness and dehydration, which can lead to falls and kidney problems (respectively).

Explore More

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Contrave Diet: Foods To Eat and Avoid.


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  2. Hieu TH, Dibas M, Surya Dila KA, Sherif NA, Hashmi MU, Mahmoud M, Trang NTT, Abdullah L, Nghia TLB, Y MN, Hirayama K, Huy NT. Therapeutic efficacy and safety of chamomile for state anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and sleep quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials and quasi-randomized trials. Phytother Res. 2019 Jun;33(6):1604-1615. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6349. Epub 2019 Apr 21. PMID: 31006899.
  3. Lavizzo-Mourey RJ. Dehydration in the elderly: a short review. J Natl Med Assoc. 1987 Oct;79(10):1033-8. PMID: 3316670; PMCID: PMC2625510.
  4. Padwal R. Contrave, a bupropion and naltrexone combination therapy for the potential treatment of obesity. Curr Opin Investig Drugs. 2009 Oct;10(10):1117-25. PMID: 19777400.

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