Anorectic drugs, often referred to as diet pills, seem like a quick and easy way to drop a few pounds. Unfortunately, they have some pretty serious side effects, particularly when misused. Some examples of these medications include benzphetamine (Didrex), diethylproprion (Tenuate, Tepanil), fenfluramine (Pondimin), mazindol (Sanorex, Mazanor), phendimetrazine (Bontril, Prelu-2, Plegine) and phentermine (Ionamin, AdipexP). They’re generally safe enough for short term use if closely monitored, although most doctor won’t prescribe them for more than a few months.
People will abuse any drug that they think can get them high, and diet pills are no exception. Anorectic drugs produce many of the same effects as amphetamines, although they are generally less potent. They are intended to work by suppressing the appetite and increasing metabolism, meaning people eat less and what they do eat is burned off more quickly. These medications can also increase energy and produce feelings of euphoria. Because of their similarities to amphetamines, these drugs are also classified as controlled substances. Typically they will be Schedule III or Schedule IV, with III being a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence and IV with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. When addiction does occur, it usually coincides with an eating disorder, although sometimes people will take them just for the stimulant effect. Some people with anorexia, or overweight people who are abusing the medications to lose weight faster, will take well beyond the recommended dose or even take them in combination with laxatives, which can lead to gastrointestinal tract issues and even heart problems.
Like any prescription medication, it’s important to remember that just because something is recommended by a doctor, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be harmful or addictive. Even when taken according to instructions, diet pills can cause dizziness, dry mouth, difficulty sleeping, irritability, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation, rapid or irregular heartbeat, mental or mood changes such as agitation, uncontrolled anger, hallucinations, and nervousness, uncontrolled muscle movements, and change in sexual ability or interest.
Diet pill addiction can be prevented by doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. Doctors can pay closer attention than anyone to their patients, particularly if the prescription is one that must be renewed monthly. Keeping track of things like significant weight changes, rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure can help clue them in that something is wrong. Also, if the patient appears to have little or no weight loss after a couple months on the medication, doctors should stop prescribing it. Either it’s not working and the patient is risking possible side effects for nothing, or the pills are being given or sold to someone else. Pharmacists can help educate people when they fill their prescriptions, making sure they understand the proper use and the possible dangers.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.