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Is This the Number One Weight Loss Pill Abused by Young Women?

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
ADHD med prescriptions surging among young women

Without a doubt, prescription painkillers are the most abused pills, but did you know that this common prescription pill could become the next number one pill abused by young women for its weight loss properties?


In spite of all the news and recommendations on how to lose weight over the past decade, obesity in America remains a pressing health problem for many. (5 Steps for Achieving a Sustainable Change in Your Diet) So much so, that in desperation, many are turning to a common pill found in many homes that is typically prescribed for children-Ritalin.

Not unlike the sedatives, painkillers and antidepressants of the past colloquially known as "mother's little helper," attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) meds like Adderall and Ritalin are the newer kids on the block that young women may be increasingly turning to as indicated by a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that says that the number of women in their late 20s who filled a prescription for ADHD med skyrocketed by 700 percent between 2003 and 2015.

While ADHD meds like Ritalin are typically prescribed for children characterized by a continual behavior pattern consisting of hyperactivity and/or inattention with episodes of impulsiveness, adults too can receive prescriptions legally for the drug whether they have ADHD or not. How? Simply by faking it by going to a doctor with complaints that are warning signs of adult ADHD such as:

--Being easily distracted. Trying to do several things at once, but cannot stay focused on one single task.

--Disorganized living--clothes left lying about on the floor all the time, trouble locating car keys, etc.

--Poor time management. Never on time for an appointment. Chiefly a procrastinator who tries to cram everything in the last 5 minutes.

--Unreliable provider. Goes to store to pick up eggs and comes back with chips instead. Forgets school PTA meetings and other school events.

So, why is Ritalin so attractive to young women? Some experts explain that the attraction lies in many young women feeling pressure or the need to be a superwoman and a supermodel at the same time; And Ritalin is an effective med for helping overworked, overstressed women who need some help feeling energized and more focused with the added plus of losing weight easily.

The Risks of Abusing Ritalin

Health experts say that the pattern of abuse for Ritalin is often very similar to that of cocaine addicts where dependency and addiction takes over their lives. Taking too much Ritalin for too long can lead to the following symptoms:

--Reduced appetite and weight loss
--Pupil dilation
--Dizziness/feeling faint
--Impaired vision
--Rapid heart rate
--Stomach pain
--Repetitive actions (OCD-like behavior)
--Auditory hallucinations
--Tendency toward violence

While the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report did not provide any concrete reasons or speculation about why there is such a marked increase in ADHD prescriptions for young women, the specter of potential abuse is foreshadowed by the report. Their warning in why young women taking Ritalin is a concern is due to that it may have prenatal health consequences should a woman on Ritalin become pregnant.

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Ritalin May Delay Puberty in Boys with ADD and ADHD

The take-home message here is that Ritalin and other ADHD meds are not a magic pill for women (or anyone) to use as a performance enhancing weight loss drug. Doing so may lead to addiction and loss of those things in life you treasure such as family and self.

Coping Strategies for Young Women

Here are a few strategies for women to help them cope with a too-busy life without having turning to "mother's little helper."

o Exercise regularly-studies have shown that exercising 30 minutes a day results in mental clarity, increased focus, feelings of well-being and naturally increases the levels of dopamine that you may have gained from a pill.

o Eat healthy foods-try an unbalanced diet where you eat disproportionately more fruits and vegetables and less fats to give you energy and decrease cravings for sugar.

o Divide and conquer- try to delegate or share your responsibilities at work and home so that your stress will be lower and you will have more "me time" for yourself.

o Learn relaxation techniques-take up mediation, massage, yoga or all three and discover what others have already known for centuries in dealing with stress.

o Engage Healthy Sleep Habits-make your bedroom a place of calm and not a boardroom by removing all electronic gadgets. Studies show that by lowering the lights and the room temperature just before going to sleep induces sleep quicker than reading under a bright light and in a warm room.

o Practice Healthy Coping Skills-aim for balance with a positive attitude and a good support system from friends and family. Simply talking about your day can vent a lot of pressure and allow you to relax afterward.

o Seek professional help-when stress is too much and you suspect it may be the cause of some symptoms of ill health that exacerbate your stress, go see your physician and discuss your concerns.

For some helpful advice on how to lose weight safely and gradually, here is Your 2018 Weight Loss Guide for recommendations to follow.

Reference: "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Medication Prescription Claims Among Privately Insured Women Aged 15-44 Years United States, 2003-2015" MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2018; 67: 66-70; Anderson KN, Ailes EC, Danielson M, et al.

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