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The dangers of anorexiant diet pills

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Anorexiant diet pills have increased dangers for those with an eating disorder. There is also an increased risk of developing a high dependency on these drugs among those with eating disorders. (1)

Last updated on 
October 27, 2022
In this article

What are anorexiants?

An anorexiant is a drug that suppresses the appetite by triggering parts of the brain that affect how full a person feels when eating. (2) Because of the widespread misconception that weight is an indicator of health, doctors prescribe anorexiants to individuals who are of significantly high weight when it is perceived diet and exercise alone are not working. (3)

Most anorexiants are prescriptions, but there are over-the-counter options available. Many diet pills are habit-forming, so it’s easy for someone to misuse the drug, especially when taking it without a prescription.

What are the dangers of anorexiants?

General side effects of anorexiants include dry mouth, constipation, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. In some cases, they may even cause insomnia, dizziness, increased blood pressure, muscle pain, tremors, or blurred vision. (4)

Individuals should not take anorexiants if they have coronary artery disease, severe high blood pressure, overactive thyroid, or glaucoma. They’re also not safe for people with kidney disease, an irregular heartbeat, or epilepsy. 

Anorexiants are dangerous to mix with other medications and may increase the risk of side effects. It’s also important not to mix diet pills. Taking more than one type of anorexiant can lead to a fatal lung condition called pulmonary hypertension. (5) 

It is possible to overdose on anorexiants. Those who use anorexiants may have a dependency on the drug and misuse it to lose weight. Symptoms of an overdose include tremors, overactive reflexes, confusion, hallucinations, panic, seizures, dilated pupils, and rapid breathing. In the case of an overdose, it’s critical to seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Most commonly used anorexiants

There are various prescription and over-the-counter anorexiants. A few common ones are: 

  • Benzphetamine: Common side effects include increased blood pressure and heart rate, insomnia, and anxiety.
  • Diethylpropion: Side effects include constipation, restlessness, dry mouth, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure.
  • Mazindol: Possible side effects are tremors, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, dry mouth, diarrhea, and constipation.
  • Phentermine: The most common side effects are rapid heart rate, tingling in the hands or feet, dry mouth, anxiety, and constipation.

Anorexiants and eating disorders 

Anyone using anorexiants is at risk for experiencing side effects, but those with an eating disorder have an increased risk of severe health concerns. 

Increased risk of developing an eating disorder

Some researchers believe using unprescribed diet pills could be an early sign of an eating disorder. (6) Participants in one study who used diet pills and laxatives to manage their weight were more likely to have an eating disorder diagnosis within a year. The study also found that diet pills could lead to disordered eating practices, because anorexiants disrupt digestive functions.

Anorexiants and high blood pressure

Many anorexiants are unsafe for people with high blood pressure, a common condition among people with an eating disorder. Taking anorexiant diet pills with elevated blood pressure increases one’s risk of developing severe health conditions, such as an aneurysm, a heart attack, or heart failure. 

Anorexiant dependency and overdose

Individuals with an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, tend to fixate on body image and weight loss and, therefore, have a higher risk of dependency on anorexiants. Since these diet pills suppress appetite, those with binge eating disorder or night eating syndrome may feel like the drug gives them control over how much they eat during binge episodes. The long-term use of diet pills may also result in an overdose, which can be fatal.

Seeking treatment 

It takes incredible courage to seek help for an eating disorder. But recovery is possible with the right treatment plan and the right support. We are here to support you. Call our team today to learn about our virtual care programs for eating disorders.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. Reba-Harrelson, L., Von Holle, A., Thornton, L. M., Klump, K. L., Berrettini, W. H., Brandt, H., Crawford, S., Crow, S., Fichter, M. M., Goldman, D., Halmi, K. A., Johnson, C., Kaplan, A. S., Keel, P., LaVia, M., Mitchell, J., Plotnicov, K., Rotondo, A., Strober, M., … Bulik, C. M. (2008). Features associated with diet pill use in individuals with eating disorders. Eating Behaviors, 9(1), 73–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2007.04.001
  2. Anderson, L. A. (2021, June 22). Side effects of weight loss drugs (diet pills). Drugs.com. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.drugs.com/article/side-effects-weight-loss-drugs.html
  3. Bacon, L., Aphramor, L. Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. Nutr J. 10, 9 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-10-9 https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-10-9#:~:text=Evidence%20from%20these%20six%20RCTs,mood%2C%20self%2Desteem%2C%20body 
  4. Memon, N. (2021, June 28). How do CNS stimulants anorexiants work? uses, side effects, drug names. RxList. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.rxlist.com/how_do_cns_stimulants_anorexiants_work/drug-class.htm
  5. Multum., C. (2021, September 8). Diethylpropion uses, Side Effects & Warnings. Drugs.com. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.drugs.com/mtm/diethylpropion.html
  6. Roeder, A. (2019, November 20). Diet pills linked with eating disorder diagnosis. Harvard Gazette. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/11/diet-pills-linked-with-eating-disorder-diagnosis/


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