Legal diet pills may seem benign, but some contain highly addictive substances. These drugs have ruined young lives and led to thousands of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths.
What Are Diet Pills?
Diet pills are made of herbs or chemicals that can potentially aid in weight loss. These products promise to suppress appetite, increase metabolism, or alter the way the body breaks down fat and calories.
Most diet pills are not backed by the solid science necessary for FDA approval and are sold as “supplements” rather than proven medications.
Some diet pills are in fact approved for weight loss and are used to treat people who are morbidly obese or have co-occurring disorders (e.g. severe binge eating disorders). These pills often contain amphetamines, rendering them as addictive as the street drug methamphetamine. If your teen is using amphetamines without a doctor’s approval, they are at a high risk for addiction.
In addition to weight loss properties, amphetamine-based weight loss pills provide energy increases similar to that of amphetamine-based medications to treat teen ADHD. So if you find that your teen has been abusing diet pills, this does not mean that they are suffering from an eating disorder — they may be trying to boost their academic performance or to party longer. Regardless of their reasons, diet pill abuse is a serious problem.
Dangers of Diet Pills
The teenage years can be tough — and the pressure to be thin doesn’t make life any easier for teens. Many young people have turned to “diet pills” in order to help them achieve the weight loss they desire.
20% of teenage girls have abused diet pills in an effort to lose weight.
Each diet pill is formulated differently, and some contain ingredients that can be deadly in high doses. In 2015, a 21-year-old student died after taking too many diet pills that contained DNP (dinitrophenol), a chemical that has been tied to over 60 deaths. It hastens the metabolism so much that the body uncontrollably overheats. Unfortunately, there is no antidote for DNP overdose, and victims usually die while receiving palliative medical treatment. Though DNP was banned in 1938, it has made a comeback in recent years, and teens can easily purchase them online.
Side Effects of Weight Loss Pills
In addition to weight loss, diet pills may cause the following side effects, which can be dangerous if severe:
- Heart palpitations
The pills can also provoke life-threatening side effects, including:
- Respiratory failure
- Heart failure
Diet Pill Recalls
Some of these products have had such intense adverse effects that they’ve been banned in the U.S. The popular weight loss aid Hydroxycut was recalled and banned in 2004 when the FDA discovered that the product contained a toxic ingredient.
The company reformulated their diet pills and began selling them again. Just five years later in 2009, Hydroxycut was recalled and banned once more after a 19-year-old user died and 23 people reported significant liver damage. The FDA warned the public not to use Hydroxycut diet pills. However, the company once again reformulated its product and got it back on the market, where it remains available today.
The most important thing to remember is that diet pills may be legal, but that does not mean they are safe.
Dangers of Mixing Drugs
Many diet pills are made with caffeine, which should never be mixed with alcohol. While caffeine abuse is a concern, a bigger issue is drug interactions. Since these pills are largely unsanctioned by the FDA, consumers do not know what exactly is in them. For example, a weight loss pill users might pop a quick over-the-counter headache remedy, then end up in the emergency room because their diet pill reacted badly to headache medicine.
Teen Eating Disorders
Though diet pill abuse can provide a feeling of control over one’s eating and cause weight loss, mental health issues like eating disorders and body dysmorphia cannot be cured through shedding pounds. Professional therapy can address these issues in a comprehensive fashion, by treating the underlying problems that have caused the disordered behaviors.
Signs of Diet Pill Abuse
If your teen is abusing diet pills, you may or may not notice any weight loss. However, these pills can also prevent the body from getting nutrients and reaching normal blood sugar levels.
This can lead to psychological effects that include the following:
If your teen has been abusing diet pills, then stops, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
Does Your Teen Need Treatment for Diet Pill Addiction
If you’ve noticed signs that your teen is abusing diet pills — or any other substance — you need to act now to stop this behavior. We understand how tough it can be to reach out for help, but your child needs you now more than ever. Treatment at Next Generation Village could mean the difference between the happy, healthy future your child deserves and a lifelong struggle with addiction.
At Next Generation Village, we recognize that diet pill addiction treatment must go deeper than simply quelling the use of pills. That’s why we address the root issues that led to the use of diet pills in the first place and help teens build self-confidence that isn’t tied to the number on the scale.
Your child deserves the chance to flourish, free from the chains of teen addiction. Contact us today, and together we can plan a path to recovery for your child.
Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.