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Diet Pills Addiction And The Best Rehab Centers For Treatment

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 19, 2019

Diet pills are generally marketed as part of a weight loss strategy that includes regular exercise and a healthy diet. They are prescribed or available over the counter and each affects the body in its own way. These drugs are intended for short-term use only and may result in addiction if abused or used improperly.

Understanding Diet Pill Addiction

We live in a culture hyper-focused on unrealistic portrayals of the body. Drugs sold to help us shed extra pounds are widely advertised and readily available at local pharmacies, supermarkets, and even gas stations. Adding to the complexity, these drugs often contain dangerous and highly addictive stimulants making them one of the most widely abused substances in the United States. And with new drugs being approved each year, the industry is growing.

For someone who is hoping to shed a few extra pounds or jump-start a weight loss program, diet pills can be effective tools. Many are designed to be used for a determined period of time (often under three months) under doctor supervision. The drugs fail, however, to address underlying issues surrounding weight gain. Often, those struggling with weight issues are encouraged by the initial small successes, but since prescription diet pills aren’t designed to help someone maintain or continue to lose weight following cessation of the drug, they can return to the pills out of the desire to lose more. It’s those early small successes that make diet pills silently seductive.

Other negative addictive behaviors associated with diet pill use include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. Moreover, studies indicate people suffering from eating disorders are 50% more likely to engage in alcohol and drug abuse.

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Dangers Of Diet Pill Abuse

Appetite suppressants are the most addictive of the diet pill arsenal. Appetite suppressants work by tricking the body into feelings of fullness. They often contain stimulants like amphetamine, ephedrine, phenylethylamine, caffeine, and other anorectics – compounds used to elevate dopamine levels in the body.

Dopamine is an intoxicating molecule. It is responsible for a whole gambit of sensations we associate with positive experiences including falling in love, sex, and indulging in your favorite food. Our bodies naturally release dopamine after we’ve eaten, so diet pill manufacturers try to replicate this sensation of fullness or satisfaction through the use of stimulants.

Unfortunately, these stimulants, much like love, sex, and our favorite foods, become equally addictive. And the more they are ingested, the more the body builds a tolerance to their effects, fueling addictive behavior.

Even short term use of stimulants like amphetamines can have serious negative impacts on your health. Overuse of the most common appetite suppressants can lead to neurotoxicity, a condition in which the body relies on the synthetically introduced compounds, leading to long-term nervous system damage. And looking back at the history of diet pills introduced to the market since the 1930s, a clear pattern indicating subsequent withdrawal of these products from the market due to safety concerns emerges.

Health Impacts Of Diet Pill Abuse

While many begin using diet pills to lose weight, they are often drawn to the underlying effects of the stimulants. In the case of appetite suppressants, amphetamines and amphetamine-like compounds initially enhance focus and alertness; a short-lived benefit as tolerance builds.

Appetite suppressants are not only addictive, but they are also associated with adverse short- and long-term side effects that include irritability, paranoia, insomnia, and in some cases, heart attack, stroke, and death. Eating disorders, which limit the body’s caloric intake, combined with the use of diet pills can damage the kidneys and liver in addition to a multitude of other possible side effects.

Short-term side effects for the use of diet pills include:

  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • elevated heart rate
  • elevated blood pressure
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • intestinal issues
  • irritability
  • rapid heart rate

Long term side-effects include:

  • pulmonary hypertension
  • heart valve damage
  • damage to the liver
  • paranoia
  • heart Attack
  • stroke
  • death

Body Image And Unrealistic Expectations

A recent study by the American Medical Association concluded that a growing number of young women utilize diet drugs regardless of weight, indicating body image is a huge driving force behind diet pill use and addiction. Women in the United States are especially vulnerable to unrealistic expectations of weight.

Young women and teenagers are subjected to an onslaught of media portrayals featuring unusually thin models and, in some cases, computer-doctored images. These are not levels of weight loss that can be maintained healthfully and they encourage otherwise healthy women and girls to engage in potentially life-threatening behaviors.

Diet Pill Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you know is addicted to diet pills, help and support are available. Recovery from chronic use of diet pills is a positive, albeit difficult first step toward wellness. The severity of addiction to amphetamines found in many appetite suppressants can be compared to that of cocaine and heroin, and withdrawal from these substances should be carefully monitored.

Often people who have become dependent on the drug to stay awake, report feelings of fatigue and grogginess. These symptoms will subside, but they are driving factors toward relapse. Other factors toward relapse include weight gain due to inactivity and depression. Professional counseling, including nutritional counseling, and support from family and friends is recommended.

If you feel ready to step forward and reclaim your life, can connect you with treatment options designed to work best for you. Contact us to get started on a new path toward wellness.

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