Over the Counter Diet Drugs: A Dangerous Fad or the Solution to Effective Long Term Weight Loss?

Since the 1970’s and the advent of the fashion model Twiggy, women have been looking for an instant cure to weight loss. They wanted something which would work quickly and easily and wouldn’t necessarily require any drastic lifestyle changes such as a change of diet and the addition of regular exercise. The drug companies keyed into this need almost immediately creating many diet drugs, a lot of which are now available over the counter. Drugs such as Dexatrim, Accutrim, and newer ones like Relacort. But do they really work, or could they in fact endanger your health?

In truth there are far more disadvantages to taking OTC diet drugs than advantages. In my mind one of the biggest dangers is the fact such drugs are considered “food supplements” and as such are not regulated by the FDA or any other organization. This means that any company out there which has the capacity and the know how and can create an OTC diet drug. All they have to do then is classify it as a food supplement and then market it to the public as the newest cure all for obesity. Another problem is these companies do not have to follow the same labeling, dosage and advertising rules as prescription diet drugs. It seems to me this gives companies which produce these over the counter diet drugs an awful lot of leeway to stretch the truth in any fashion they want to. In addition diet drug companies do not have to report any adverse side effects such as anxiety, heart attack, stroke, pyschosis, or even death to the FDA. Some situations where the use of the diet drug resulted in side effects which caused death may have been from overdose. What a lot of people may not realize is the main ingredient in some of these drugs, phenylpropanolamine is also in many OTC allergy and cold medicines. So, a person could be taking an OTC diet drug to lose weight, get a cold and start taking cold medicine and accidentally overdose themselves without even realizing it.

But what if the OTC diet drug is labeled as “herbal or natural,” is it safe then? The answer to this question is probably not. As witnessed in the news in recent years, many of the drugs which claimed to be natural and herbal and as such “safe” had an herb in them called Ephedrine. It wasn’t until someone died, the word got out, and protective legislation was put into place the OTC diet drug companies removed Ephedrine from their products. Many of our modern day drugs are based on herbal remedies. This means this is another way you could be unknowingly overdosing yourself. There is always the possibility a presciption or even OTC drug you’re taking could have an ingredient in it which is a derivative of an herb you are taking for weight loss.

While there have been few studies on these drugs, another cause for concern, one study by Yale University found that those who took OTC diet drugs which contained Phenylpropanolamine increased their risk of a hemorrhagic stroke by 16 times.
In conclusion there hasn’t been any evidence these drugs produce long term weight loss or increased health. In fact the possible side effects, and the fact they aren’t well regulated should be enough to deter anyone from taking them.

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