Weight Loss Medication: Is It Right for You?

Do you have serious problems with your weight? Have you tried everything, diet and exercising, and you still haven't achieved the body you want? If your answer was yes to one or both of these questions, then consider prescribed weight loss medication.

The number one rule of taking weight loss medication is that it's used as an addition but not a substitute for proper exercise and healthy living.

Who Can Use Weight Loss Medication?

A physician will consider putting you on weight loss meds if you haven't been able to get rid of that weight through exercise and a change in diet. You should also satisfy the following criteria:

  • Your body mass index (BMI) ought to be higher than 30
  • If you have a BMI higher than 27 and have a medical problem related to being overweight, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Before a doctor gives you these medications, they will have to take a look at your medical records. Some people might be unsuitable to use these drugs because of certain underlying conditions like glaucoma. Your doctor will enlighten you on the positives and downsides of taking these medications.

Pregnant women or women planning on getting pregnant should not take these drugs. The use of some of them may harm the fetus.

Approved Weight Loss Medications

Weight-loss medications are known for their effectiveness; however, like all medications, you should only use those approved by the FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration body). Lorcaserin (Belviq), for instance, was withdrawn from the US market due to increased cancer risk, as seen in its post-marketing trials.overweight woman measuring waist

The drugs currently approved for long-term use by the FDA are:

  • Orlistat (Xenical)
  • Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia)
  • Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave)
  • Liraglutide (Saxenda)

There are weight loss medications that the FDA approves for use for short-term consumption (up to 12 weeks). As such, any use of these medications shouldn't be self-prescribed but under the instruction of a physician. Talk to your doctor about any side effects you might be feeling after their use.

Orlistat (Xenical)

Orlistat works to reduce weight by cutting down on the amount of fat absorbed in the gut from the food consumed. It's been approved for use for adults and children aged 12 or older. Some of the common side effects seen from the use of this medication include diarrhea, flatulence, leakage of oily stools, and stomach pain.

It's recommended to take this medication while keeping to a low-fat diet. In very rare cases, there have been some reports of liver injury associated with Orlistat. No cause-and-effect relationship has been established, however. It's worth knowing that Orlistat is also available in a lowered-strength form (Alli) and can be issued without a prescription.

Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia)

Phentermine-topiramate is a weight loss medication prescribed to adults only. It is a combination of two drugs, phentermine, and topiramate. Phentermine (Adipex-P, Lomaira ) works towards weight loss by lessening the appetite. The use of phentermine is controlled as it has the potential to be misused as it can act like an amphetamine. Topiramate, on the other hand, is an anticonvulsant normally used to treat migraines or seizures.

Some of the side effects associated with the use of Phentermine-topiramate include dry mouth, constipation, trouble sleeping, tingling in the extremities, and changes in taste with carbonated beverages. Avoid using this drug if you have hyperthyroidism or glaucoma.

Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave)

Contrave is another combination drug. Its two major ingredients are Naltrexone and Bupropion. Naltrexone is commonly used to treat drug and alcohol dependence. Bupropion is typically used as an antidepressant, in addition, to being a big help in helping smokers quit the habit. This weight loss medication is usually only prescribed to adults. It works by reducing your appetite.

Like most drugs, Naltrexone-bupropion has side effects. The most common of these include vomiting, nausea, liver damage, increased heart rate, raised blood pressure, headache, dry mouth, dizziness, diarrhea, and constipation. If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, a history of anorexia, or seizures, then talk to your doctor before using Contrave.

Liraglutide (Saxenda)

Liraglutide is another weight loss medication that is primarily prescribed to adults only. It's, however, a bit different as compared to other drugs on this list. It is exclusively administered via injection. Furthermore, when given under a lower dose and using a different name, Victoza, this FDA-approved drug is utilized in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It is another medication that works by reducing your appetite.

The common side effects of Liraglutide include nausea, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, headache, and raised pulse.

Other medicationsweight loss medications

Some other medications also reduce your hunger, but their FDA approval is only for the short-term. Usually, this period extends up to 12 weeks. A few examples of these drugs are phentermine, phendimetrazine, benzphetamine, and diethylpropion. Their use is restricted to adults only.

Like some of the other weight loss medications covered, they work to increase the quantity of the chemicals in your brain that work to reduce hunger or make you feel full faster. Some of the side effects of using these medications include feeling restless, headache, raised blood pressure, raised pulse, feeling nervous, difficulty sleeping, feeling nervous, dry mouth, and constipation.

How Well Do They Work?

Doctor-prescribed weight loss meds used for periods longer than 12 weeks have significant weight loss capabilities compared to the placebo. However, for the best results, pair these drugs with the directed lifestyle changes. Eat healthy, exercise, and watch the weight disappear.

You'll lose 3% to 7% of total body weight more than what you'd have lost with lifestyle changes alone. This isn't insignificant, as a sustained loss of 5% to 10% will have visible benefits as seen in lowered blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and blood sugar.


Weight loss medications won't magically make the weight go away. You need to have patience and develop a healthy lifestyle to really see what those drugs can do. Take care of yourself; at the end of the day, if you're stripped of everything, your health is all that you have. Happy weight shedding!

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