Understanding Weight Loss Medications
Millions of men and women take weight loss medications every year. Do they work? It depends. There are certain risks as well as benefits to taking weight-loss drugs, and individuals considering taking drugs or medications for long-term weight loss should understand the basics as well as the risks to such an approach to obesity and weight loss. Some individuals may experience more benefits using weight-loss medications than others, and overall results will be determined by other considering factors, including diet, nutrition, genetics, exercise and dedication to healthy lifestyle living.
Types of Weight-Loss Medications
Americans spend an average of $30 billion dollars a year on weight loss medications and products. Some of them are effective while others are not. There are many different types of prescriptions and over-the-counter weight-loss drugs on the market today. Obesity, like other long-term and chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes often utilize the benefits of a prescriptive drug in its treatment, but like any medication or drug, side effects from weight loss medications do occur.
Prescription weight-loss drugs are generally designed to treat obesity in people with a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 without obesity related conditions. Or, prescription weight-loss drugs may be prescribed for those with a body mass index of 27 and over with obesity related conditions.
Most prescription weight-loss medications and drugs are designed for short-term use, meaning several weeks or several months at most. Most of these medications are known as appetite suppressants, both which come over-the-counter or prescribed by a physician. Always use caution when taking a weight-loss medication or drug, because side effects will vary. In addition, many over-the-counter weight-loss medications have not been approved by the Federal Drug Administration and may be harmful. One such product, taken from market shelves in the late 1990s was called Phen-Fen, which was determined to cause damage to heart valves.
Some weight-loss medications are designed to block fat absorption in the body, such as Alli and Xenical. New drugs appear on market shelves every year, and it's up to consumers to read information or to request information from family physicians or health care providers regarding their safety.
Appetite suppressants are designed to function by decreasing appetite and convincing the body that it's full. Appetite suppressants increased release of two chemicals found in the brain that affect appetite, and mood, called serotonin and catecholamine. Fat absorption inhibitors are designed to prevent the body from breaking down and absorbing fat. These unabsorbed fats are eliminated in bowel movements. However, it should be noted that the body does need some amount of fat in the diet on a daily basis, so complete fat absorption inhibition should be avoided.
Who Benefits from Weight-Loss Drugs?
Individuals who are overweight or obese may benefit from weight-loss drugs when taken carefully, according to doctors directions, and in accordance with the doctor's knowledge. Some weight-loss drugs are designed to use long-term, such as Meridia and Xenical, but the effectiveness of such medications has not been established for periods of time that extend beyond two years.
In most cases, individuals taking weight-loss drugs and combining their use with a well-balanced diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle lose an average of between 5 to 25 pounds a year. While some individuals may lose more, and some less, individuals will generally enjoy the most weight-loss within a six-month period of time.
Weight-Loss Drug Risks
Long-term use of weight-loss drugs, either prescription or over-the-counter may result with certain side effects and risks. Some of the most common risks involved in the use of weight-loss drugs include side effects, developing a tolerance for the medication, or addiction. To date, the only obesity weight loss medication that is not considered a controlled substance is Xenical. All other weight-loss drugs are considered addictive.
Some of the most common side effects of weight-loss drugs, both over-the-counter or prescription include but are not limited to constipation, excessive thirst, headache, anxiety, increased blood pressure, drowsiness, increased heart rate, insomnia, and lightheadedness. Individuals may often experience other side effects including oily stools, gas, and a nominal cramping.
Individuals who are taking medications for heart disease, or high blood pressure should discuss the risks of taking weight-loss medications with their physician. In addition, any type of weight-loss medication used in children or older adults should be discussed with a healthcare provider prior to use.
Cost of Weight-Loss Drugs
Many over-the-counter weight-loss medications may cost between $35 and $60 a bottle. Some of the most common brands of over-the-counter weight-loss medications require individuals to take 3 to 4 tablets or pills a day. In most cases, supplies last an average of one month. Prescription weight-loss medications and drugs such as Meridia are more expensive, and may cost between $90 and $200 a month. Xenical can cost between $100 and $200 a month, depending on where prescriptions are filled. In many cases, these drugs are combined with weight loss procedures such as gastric bypass and other bariatric or obesity surgeries.
Talking to Your Physician about Weight-Loss Medications
Always discuss the benefits and drawbacks of weight-loss medications with a professional healthcare provider. Your doctor should ask you whether or not you suffer from any allergies, if you're pregnant, or what other types of medications you may be taking. Pre-existing medical conditions will also affect the benefits or drawbacks of taking weight-loss medications, especially individuals who suffer from kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, glaucoma, or other medical conditions that may affect your body's ability to benefit from weight-loss medications.
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