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Appetite Suppressants

What are appetite suppressants?

Medications classified as appetite suppressants act upon the body’s central nervous system, tricking the body into believing that it is not hungry. Some examples of prescription appetite suppressants include: benzphetamine, diethylpropion, mazindol and phentermine. These medications generally come in the form of tablets or extended-release capsules. Appetite suppressants can be prescribed or purchased over-the-counter.

Appetite suppressants are used as a short-term treatment for patients with obesity. Not only do the drugs’ effects tend to wear off after a few weeks, but they can also have some unpleasant side effects, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness

Because of the short-term effects of these drugs, it is important for patients who are trying to lose weight to learn new eating habits and to exercise while the drug is still effective. Once these new approaches have been learned and established, it is important to continue following them if you hope to continue losing weight and keep lost weight from returning.

Appetite suppressants are not for everybody. For example, there are limited studies on these medications’ effects on older adults, and no studies have been done on children.

Before a doctor will prescribe appetite suppressants, he or she will consider the following: any existing allergies a patient may have; whether or not the patient is pregnant or breastfeeding; and what types of other medications the patient may be taking. Existing medical conditions may also affect the use of appetite suppressants. A patient should tell his or her doctor if he or she has any of the following conditions:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Kidney disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Alcohol or drug abuse (or a history of)
  • Overactive thyroid

Patients who are prescribed appetite suppressants should follow the prescription carefully. Because appetite suppressants may cause drowsiness or lightheadedness, it is important for patients to know how they respond to these medications before they attempt to drive or operate machinery.

Taking these medications too often or in too large a quantity, or for longer than has been prescribed, can lead to addiction, or in worst-case situations, an overdose. Symptoms of an overdose can include confusion, convulsions, hallucinations, and coma. Patients who experience any of the following symptoms should call their doctor immediately:

  • A decrease in the ability to exercise
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling in the feet or lower legs
  • Difficulty breathing
References

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Prescription Medications for the Treatment of Obesity. win.niddk.nih.gov/. Updated December 2010. Accessed January 13, 2011.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Overweight and Obesity. www.nhlbi.nih.gov. Updated November 2010. Accessed January 13, 2011.

© Copyright 1995-2011 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 1/13/2011...#9463