These Common Weight Loss Medications Have Surprisingly Dangerous Side Effects

Some people will try every method to lose weight, and nothing seems to work. Weight loss pills seem like an easy alternative to diet and exercise, as they may speed up the process of achieving weight loss goals.

Before you even consider taking a weight loss pill, you should talk to your doctor. While all options of supplements come with the possibility of side effects, some are far too dangerous to risk.

1. DNP (2,4 dinitrophenol)

Close-up of beautiful woman with eyes closed

Debilitating cataracts may be a side effect. | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

DNP, otherwise known as the “king of fat-loss drugs,” should be avoided at all costs. Banned in 1938 from consumption, this dangerous drug has made a comeback and is now being sold online. The severe side effects include cataracts, skin lesions, life-threatening hyperthermia, and severe brain damage.

Michael Nusbaum, M.D. and founder of The Obesity Treatment Centers of New Jersey, says of the killer drug, “If I told you that in small doses, arsenic could also help you lose weight, would you do that? This is the same thing.”

2. Contrave (bupropion and naltrexone)

woman holding pills in her hand

Those pills may not be worth the cost to your health. | iStock.com

Contrave can cause some seriously scary psychiatric side effects, but it was approved in 2014 as a weight loss pill. It contains both bupropion (an antidepressant) and an ingredient used in Zyban (a medication used to stop smoking). The medication has not been approved for depression or smoking cessation, but it comes with the side effects often found in pills used for such purposes.

Those side effects include mood changes (depression or mania), psychosis, hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, and thoughts of suicide.

3. Saxenda (liraglutide)

Young depressed cancer patient standing in front of hospital window.

Cancer is an all too real side effect. | iStock.com/prudkov

Saxenda is actually labeled with a warning for thyroid C-cell tumor cancer, which is not a side effect that should be risked with any weight loss pill. If medullary thyroid carcinoma or multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2 is present in your family’s history, you can be at serious risk of thyroid tumors with the consumption of Saxenda.

It hasn’t been banned, because studies have not yet confirmed human association of thyroid cancer with Saxenda. However, it has been identified in studies involving animals, which should be enough to deter you from the pill.

4. Germander

pills and multivitamins

Even plant-based pills are dangerous. | iStock.com/Valentina_G

While you may not think a plant-based weight loss medication could be too dangerous, germander will prove you wrong. Even though it is found in some diet pills and in some alcoholic drinks as a flavoring agent in the U.S., its side effects are horrifying.

Dangers of consuming germander include irregular liver function, liver disease, and death. France has banned the sale of the substance, and Canada restricts its inclusion in anything that could be consumed orally.

5. Alli or Xenical (orlistat)

Woman having stomach pain

Watch out for unusual stomach pain. | iStock.com/Nikodash

If you’re taking Alli or Xenical, which are lipase inhibitors, you may want to check for some scary signs of side effects. Liver injury and liver disease have occurred in rare cases, so keep an eye out for itching, yellow skin or eyes, brown urine, pale or tar-colored stools, stomach pain, or loss of appetite.

More common side effects include oily spotting, gas, fecal urgency, lack of fecal control, and soft stools.

6. Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate)

woman holding her belly

If you’re pregnant, don’t mess around with this drug. | iStock.com

Though Qsymia has been FDA approved since 2012, any woman who suspects she may be pregnant should stop taking it immediately. Qsymia contains topiramate, which is known to cause severe birth defects in pregnant women.

Pregnant or not, this drug can cause side effects such as constipation, dry mouth, dizziness, altered taste, insomnia, and even paresthesias (tingling or prickling).

Additional common side effects

Young Woman With Stomach Ache Lying On Bed

The side effects may not be worth the gain. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Weight loss pills should always be taken with caution, as even FDA-approved appetite suppressants still come with scary side effects. Appetite suppressants, or anorexiants, will control your hunger by telling your brain to make your stomach feel fuller.

Amphetamine-like stimulants are a type of appetite suppressant, with common side effects including:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Blurred vision
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Considering their amphetamine-like nature, long-term use of stimulants can trigger dependence, abuse, or withdrawal.

Consider safer options first

Avocado toast with kale and radish over rustic wood

Eating a healthy, plant-based diet is the best way to lose weight safely. | iStock.com/jenifoto

Medication may seem like an easy option for weight loss, but even FDA-approved options should be your very last resort. Considering the side effects of some common weight loss medications are surprisingly dangerous, the risks are not worth the benefits.

If your diet and exercise aren’t working for you, talk to a doctor to see what your body needs to get back on track. Finding an effective routine will not only result in weight loss, but will improve your overall health, rather than put you at risk.

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