Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are weight loss drugs addictive?"
I'm a woman who's trying to lose weight, and several of my friends are recommending weight-loss drugs. (We're all in our 30s.) I'm interested in the drugs, but I'm concerned that they might be addictive. Is that a real risk?
Congratulations on your decision to lose weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the best things you can do for your health. I would encourage you to discuss your weight, weight related medical risks and any weight loss drug with your primary doctor before starting as there are serious potential complications. There are only a few FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved weight loss drugs. There are many other combination pills that your will find at other health food stores and even illegally. None of these have been shown to work. It is unclear exactly what is in all of these as there is no regulation however one common trend is the use of caffeine or caffeine related products. In the way that caffeine can be addictive (like coffee or sodas), these drugs might be addictive. People also use illicit drugs like cocaine for weight loss, which is obviously addictive. The bigger concern with weight loss drugs rather than being addictive is other side effects. Historically, there have been many weight loss drugs that have eventually been taken off the market for serious complications. These complications often related to elevated blood pressure, heart attacks or heart valve abnormalities. Even today, the approved drugs like phentermine or sibutramine can cause elevated blood pressure and heart problems. Other medicines like orlistat can cause serious belly cramps and diarrhea. Finally, we know that the net weight loss with these medicines is modest at best. Unfortunately, there is no good weight loss drug. While not often addictive, these can have many complications and therefore a serious risk/benefit analysis should be done before starting any of them. See your primary care doctor to further discuss these medicines or any over the counter supplement you might take. He or she should also be able to help you with traditional weight loss techniques and could even refer you to a nutritionist or dietitian.
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