11 July 2012,
 4

Why don’’t we extend ‘Substance Abuse’ to include Commercial Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss?

Why don’t we extend ‘Substance Abuse’ in to include Commercial Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss? It is quite evident that dietary supplements can, will, and are abused by folks from all walks of life. With the concept of body image playing a major role in the lives of people the world over, it should come as no surprise that dietary supplements are being abused more and more. Several Mental Health Treatment centers are beginning to open their doors to individuals coping with this form of substance abuse. However, there are still many treatment centers that are shying away.

What gives?

I was at the drugstore a few weeks ago, back when I lived in America, when I spotted two teenage girls buying Hydroxicut. While that in itself deserves a blog entry, I have to admit that this is not a story about how our obsession with being thin is permeating even societyˊs most vulnerable people. This is also not about how Hydroxicut damages the liver, or a piece addressing the reality that not a single product on the market can actually address weight loss effectively. This is not a rant on behalf of the swathes of scientists who have dedicated years of research (both academic and pharmaceutical) in the pursuit of a decent appetite suppressant – without any success!

Rather, this is a post to consider whether vendors of Commercial Weight Loss aids should be viewed with the same scrutiny as dealers of other Illicit Products, like narcotics, or exotic animals. Except, therein lies the problem: the latter two are traded on a market that is not visible to the average consumer. Weight loss aids are open territory. Compounding this issue, is that the safety to availabilty ratio seems slightly lopsided. The scarier the product, the more easily accessible it has become.

I can whole-heartedly empathize when the topic of Rapid Weight Loss is breached: I live in a part of the world where Everyone Wears Very Small Bathing Suits. If Germany is considered the kingdom of Men in Speedos, Spain can be considered the homeland for women in string bikinis. The trend for eschewing a bikini top starts to trickle out as you get into the hinterlands (like Madrid, where I live) but you get the idea. It was mid-June, I had been living in an office, and I was starting to get desperate when I walked into the drugstore to puruse the aisles of quick fixes. I’’d be lying if I hadn’’t considered whether the new, all natural cherry flavour of Hydroxicut wasn’’t such a bad idea. After all, the label touts so many anti-oxidants that it could almost pass for wheat grass.

As of late, the link between Food and Illicit Drugs have occupied a special place in obesity related reading. Suggesting that overeating is akin to getting high makes so much intuitive sense that many people have adopted it as gospel truth. Yet, the fact remains that calling food ‘addictive’ will always be a tough sell: We need to eat to survive. The same cannot be said for consuming rails of coke.

Diet Pills, on the other hand? Dietary supplements for weight loss, typically, are trollied up amphetamines. So, while two academics may spar about the degree to which endorphins are released with chocolate versus heroin, there is no back and forth when it comes to diet pills. They can raise blood pressure; affect heart rhythm, cause heart attacks, and strokes. And, since they are amphetamines, they are absolutely habit forming. Yes, they are addictive.

I recently found an online drug, which seems to receiving accolades abound: Leptoprin, once aptly named ‘Anorex’, urges only those ‘serious about dieting’ to try the $153.00/ month plan. I guess ‘serious’ is the label youˊll get if you’’re willing to pay over $1800.00/ year for a product whose namesake is a life-threatening psychiatric condition (in essence, Anorexia).

Many people on Leptoprin reported side effects such as increased urination, allergic reactions, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, and feeling ‘speeded up’.

I started to think about the various degrees of scrutiny a ‘real’ pharmaceutical product has to go through in order to be available to the public. The truth of the matter is that we have maybe two FDA approved products for weight loss, and swathes of ‘all-‘natural’’ products to assist appetite control.

It turns out that when diet pills are marketed as nutritional supplements, and as such they do not need to go through the same rigorous testing that applies to prescription medication, the FDA can only act if a product has been shown to cause significant harm. Thus there is always risk in taking so-called ‘safe’ dietary supplements for weight loss.

Both drug dealers and vendors of products like Leptorexia (I can’’t be bothered to put in the correct name) exploit your belief that you are somehow deficient without their special potion. Taking a bad dose of either can land you straight into the hospital, if not a graveyard. Please, add cherry flavour skinny drinks on the list of things to which you just say No.

Dr. yL

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