Buyer Beware: The Scary Side Effects of 3 Popular Diet Pills

Although certain media outlets and consumer marketing campaigns may lead you to believe otherwise, there’s no quick fix for slimming down. Diet pills and supplements may promise an easy solution for shedding unwanted pounds, but it’s just not that simple. While it’s true that there are a handful of supplements that will help you start losing weight, you won’t reach your goals without a combination of healthy eating and routine exercise.

Whether you call them diet pills, weight-loss supplements, or something else, there’s a plethora of drugs claiming to be the very best for getting leaner. But how can you know which ones are legit and which are just another appeal to mass market consumers? For starters, look for the FDA’s seal of approval. Even still, these approved weight-loss drugs don’t come without potential adverse side effects. Here are the scary side effects of three popular diet pills.

1. Didrex

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Even popular diet pills have scary side effects | iStock.com

Benzphetamine hydrochloride is sold as Didrex, an FDA-approved drug for people who struggle with obesity. Benzphetamine is monitored under the Controlled Substance act since it can put users at a serious risk for abuse and addiction. Because of its chemical and pharmacological relation to amphetamines, the FDA warns about the possibility of becoming addicted to the stimulant. Negative side effects include cardiovascular palpitation, elevated blood pressure, and gastrointestinal issues. Overstimulation, insomnia, and tremor have also been reported, and in rare cases, psychotic episodes have occurred Withdrawal can also be a problem, sometimes leading to depression. Even if you get a prescription for Didrex, it can put your health at serious risk.

2. Contrave

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Contrave can cause depression | iStock.com

A popular name in the prescription weight loss category, Contrave is the combination of two drugs: the antidepressant bupropion and the addiction-treatment drug naltrexone. Despite this drug’s popularity, many think the benefits don’t outweigh its adverse side effects. Approved for obese adults (with a BMI of 30 or higher), and for overweight adults (with a BMI of 27 to 29.9) who also have at least one weight-related health problem, such as high blood pressure, Contrave comes with some serious side effects. One of the most harmful is spelled out on the weight-loss aid’s black box warning, which Consumer Reports shared. The warning reads, “Contrave carries the most serious level of FDA warning because it contains the antidepressant bupropion. All antidepressants carry a Black Box Warning because they can increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors in adolescents and young adults taking antidepressants.” Though it was approved for weight loss in 2014, a comprehensive list of side effects is still to be determined

3. Belviq

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Belviq can cause fatigue | iStock.com

Approved by the FDA back in 2012 and still on the market today, Belviq (lorcaserin hydrochloride) and is recommended for chronic weight management when paired with a reduced-calorie diet and exercise. The drug works by activating the serotonin 2C receptor in the brain, which may help a person feel fuller in a shorter amount of time. According to the FDA, “The drug is approved for use in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater (obese), or adults with a BMI of 27 or greater (overweight) and who have at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol (dyslipidemia).” In non-diabetic patients, common side effects include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, dry mouth and constipation. Common side effects in diabetic patients include low blood sugar, headache, back pain, cough, and fatigue.

Whether or not you should consider any of these diet pills is ultimately up to you and your doctor. But it’s wise to know what you’re getting into well in advance.