The Appetite Suppressant: Everything You Need to Know

Published May 24th, 2022 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Erik Rivera

If you're looking to lose weight, appetite suppressants may be the solution for you.

Appetite suppressants are available over-the-counter or by prescription and are used as a weight-loss tool that helps reduce your appetite and make it easier to stick to a healthy diet.

Appetite suppressants are not for everyone, but for some individuals who want to lose weight and have struggled with weight loss in the past, the drug may help with weight loss.

Appetite suppressants work in several ways including increasing levels of serotonin in the brain, which helps control hunger signals and allows you to eat less without feeling hungry.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about prescription appetite suppressants and go into detail about the most common ones.

What are appetite suppressants?

Appetite suppressants are medications or supplements that are also called diet pills or anorectic drugs and can help keep your hunger in check.

These medications work in several ways, one way is by increasing the levels of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy and full.

Another way appetite suppressants work is by reducing the absorption of fat in your intestines or delaying stomach emptying which makes you feel full longer so that you eat less overall.

Appetite suppressant drugs can also work by stimulating the release of the glucagon-like hormone that tells your brain when you are full.

Due to feeling full, you will eat less and hopefully lose weight.

You still need to watch your food intake, especially your portion size and calorie intake, and exercise while taking appetite suppressants to maximize the benefits of the medications.

Who needs to take appetite suppressants?

If you are struggling with obesity, an appetite suppressant pill or injection may be right for you.

If you have tried a nutritious diet and exercise changes but still can not seem to lose weight, appetite suppressants may help.

However, appetite suppressants are not a miracle pill and will not work unless you make other lifestyle changes as well.

Your doctor will normally prescribe an appetite suppressant if your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher or if your body mass index is 27 or higher and you have hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, or diabetes mellitus.

appetite suppressant

Do appetite suppressants work?

Yes, appetite suppressants can work when taken in combination with regular exercise and eating a healthy diet. In studies, appetite suppressants have been shown to help obese individuals shed anywhere from 3% to 9% of body weight when taken for a year.

What are the most common appetite suppressants?

There are a number of different appetite suppressants that can help you on your weight loss journey. The most common appetite suppressants include:

Phentermine (Adipex-P, Suprenza, Pro-Fast, Lomaira)

Phentermine is a drug that suppresses appetite by acting on your central nervous system by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure which in turn speeds up your metabolic rate or fat-burning process.

It is the most commonly prescribed appetite suppressant and is usually taken once a day in the morning.

Phentermine and topiramate (Qsymia)

Phentermine and topiramate is a combination drug that not only suppresses your appetite by acting on your central nervous system with phentermine but also combines with the migraine and seizure drug known as topiramate.

When taking topiramate, your brain is less excited by food and you also burn more calories.

Diethylpropion (Tenuate, Tenuate Dospan)

Diethylpropion is another drug that affects your central nervous system in the same way as phentermine.

Liraglutide (Saxenda)

Liraglutide is a medication that is injected once a day and helps you feel full by increasing the levels of glucagon-like peptide-I (GLP-I) in your body which tells your brain when you are full.

Naltrexone HCl and bupropion (Contrave)

Naltrexone HCl is an opioid antagonist which is used to treat alcohol abuse and opioid abuse that helps to decrease your appetite by blocking the effects of opioids in your brain.

Bupropion is a medication normally used for mood disorders and to help you stop smoking. It works by increasing levels of norepinephrine and dopamine which are neurotransmitters that help you feel full.

Phendimetrazine (Prelu-2)

Phendimetrazine is another drug that is similar to amphetamines and keeps your appetite in check. Do not take it if you have a history of heart disease or high blood pressure.

Orlistat (Xenical)

Orlistat is the active ingredient in a drug called Xenical that prevents your intestines from fat absorption during digestion which then helps you feel full and eat less.

Semaglutide (Wegovy)

Semaglutide is a medication that recently got approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2021 for the treatment of obesity.

It helps you feel full by mimicking a hormone in your intestine that increases insulin production which helps to lower the blood sugar levels, also called blood glucose levels, in your body as well as decrease appetite by acting on the area of your brain that controls appetite. It is usually administered by injection.

Benzphetamine (Didrex, Regimex)

Benzphetamine is yet another stimulant that mimics amphetamines and helps to suppress your appetite.

What are the benefits of appetite suppressants?

The obvious benefits of prescription appetite suppressants are that they can help with weight loss, especially when taken in conjunction with regular exercise and eating a healthy diet.

They are especially useful if diet and exercise have not worked for you yet.

When suppressing your appetite, they may also improve your mood because you do not feel as hungry as normal.

Are there any adverse side effects to using appetite suppressants?

Yes, appetite suppressants can have a number of adverse side effects that include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue

These are some of the common side effects although you may experience others depending on which medication you are prescribed by your doctor.

Can anyone take appetite suppressants?

No, appetite suppressants are not for everyone and you need to speak to your doctor to see if they are right for you.

If you have a history of heart disease, pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure, glaucoma, liver disease, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding you need to avoid taking them.

As with any medication, always disclose your medical history such as any medical problems or medications you are taking to your doctor.

How long can I take appetite suppressants?

Most appetite suppressants are meant for short-term use and not meant to be taken for long-term use. Usually, you will have a treatment duration of a few weeks or months.

If you do need to take them for longer, your doctor will monitor you closely to make sure that the appetite suppressant is not causing any adverse effects.

If you stop taking appetite suppressants suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability, and depression.

Are there any natural appetite suppressants?

Yes, there are a few natural appetite suppressants that you can try and these include:

  • Drinking green tea or green tea extract is a natural supplement and it contains catechins which have been shown to reduce appetite and promote weight loss
  • Adding more protein to your diet such as lean meats, fish, tofu, legumes, and eggs can also help to reduce appetite as protein makes you feel fuller for longer
  • Eating more fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can also help to reduce appetite by making you feel full
  • Including healthy fats in your diet such as avocados, nuts, and seeds can also help to suppress appetite
  • Drinking water before each meal

Please note that although these natural methods may help, most of the evidence is anecdotal and more rigorous studies and research are needed.

If you are looking for an appetite suppressant, it is important to speak to your doctor first before trying any alternative medicines or natural appetite suppressants.

Summary

Appetite suppressants can help with weight loss by suppressing your appetite so that you eat less but are most effective with regular exercise and a balanced diet.

They come in many different forms and some may be more effective than others for you.

There are a number of side effects that you need to be aware of before taking them, and they are not for everyone.

Appetite suppressants are only taken for a short period of time unless your doctor prescribes them for longer.

If you stop taking them suddenly, you may experience withdrawal symptoms which we detail above.

If you have any more questions or think appetite suppressants may help you, please talk to your doctor or health care provider.

References and sources:

Cleveland Clinic

WebMD

Drugs.com

Published May 24th, 2022 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Jacqueline Hensler
Medically Reviewed:
Erik Rivera

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