Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fattened by pills

This is not something you will see trumpeted from every newspaper in the land. In fact, I'm surprised it got printed at all. You wonder why I'm so amazed that this article got printed?
Here are a few excerpts:
As Americans struggle to keep New Year’s weight-loss resolutions, experts’ alarms about obesity ring in our heads. We obsess about portion control, flock to the gym, and can’t get enough of The Biggest Loser. As schools, congressional subcommittees, and even first lady Michelle Obama -- who’s made the issue a top priority -- take on the problem, the focus turns to the usual suspects: fast food, oversize servings, and sedentary lifestyle. For some battling weight problems, those factors are indeed critical. But overlooked in all this is one of the primary causes of America’s obesity epidemic: The elephant in the living room is the skyrocketing use of psychiatric drugs.

How many of us who have had to deal with some kind of mental illness know all about that "elephant in the living room"?
Many of these, which are used to treat emotional problems including depression and anxiety, cause weight gain -- often of the rapid and massive sort -- as one of their “side effects,” that brilliant marketing term for what are simply negative effects of a drug.

What do you want to bet that studies have never been done to determine how many fat people are taking those drugs? What do you want to bet that the reason those studies have never been done is because pharmaceutical companies don't want anyone to know how many people went from average-size to "overweight" or "overweight" to "obese" because of those psychiatric drugs? After all, if those numbers were known, pharma just might have to figure out how to come up with drugs without those nasty "side effects" of weight gain (not to mention that they then couldn't push their weight loss drugs, with all their nasty "side effects", on fat people).
It is striking that the weight of many Americans has ballooned just as the prescribing of psychiatric drugs has surged. The Obesity Society categorizes nearly two-thirds of adult Americans as overweight, the average weight of an adult having increased since 1960 by 25 pounds, and between 1996 and 2006 alone, prescriptions of psychiatric drugs for US adults increased 73 percent.

Coincindence? I think not.
The courageous Alaskan attorney James Gottstein in 2006 exposed drug company Eli Lilly’s concealment of its knowledge about the effects of its drug Zyprexa3 (approved to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder but also prescribed for other conditions) on weight gain, and subsequent reports have revealed such effects of a whole range of psychiatric drugs. But nearly all researchers and journalists who focus on obesity fail to mention the drug link.

Gee, I wonder why? Could it be that if they mentioned the link, they wouldn't be able to blame fat people anymore for being fat? The fact that we're fat wouldn't be because we're lazy, stupid, couch potatoes, who stuff our faces all day long - it would be a nasty side effect of drugs prescribed by our doctors, and not our fault at all.
It’s hard not to wonder why this happens. Could drug companies be that much more powerful than fast-food chains, or does it take the former much longer to come up with drugs lacking unwanted effects than for McDonald’s to produce healthier foods in smaller portions? Is it perhaps clinicians’ fear of not knowing what to do other than prescribe these drugs? If so, then it’s time to broaden their training so they know more about the wide array of other courses of action that can help many who suffer from emotional problems, such as exercise, meditation, changes in vitamin/mineral intake, participating in the arts, volunteer work, and developing or maintaining close friendships. Whatever the reasons, the result is that not enough people know that many of these emotionally troubled patients now will have added burdens.

No shit, Sherlock. Not only do we have other people making fun of us because we're fat, but the media - with their scare-mongering and photos of headless fatties don't help. Neither do the doctors who have prescribed these medications, and should know the side effects, but still manage to blame us for being fat, and tell us it's just a matter of eat less/move more (fuck you very much, doc, I'm tired of hearing that bullshit).
What’s worse is that the connection between psychiatric drugs and obesity involves children, too. Over the past two decades the number of obese adolescents has tripled, while the 10 years after 1996 saw prescriptions of psychiatric drugs for US children rise 50 percent. And a new federal study shows that poor children are more likely than other kids to be put on drugs marketed as antipsychotics, one of the greatest culprits for causing major weight gain as well as lifelong metabolic problems. Add the humiliation to which kids subject overweight peers, and the potential psychological damage is frightening.

I don't even know what to say to this, other than it's fucked up.
Another disturbing link could be on the way. The fifth edition of the major psychiatric diagnostic manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), is expected to be released in 2013. One proposal under consideration: listing obesity as a mental illness. That would be a mistake, since obesity can be caused by metabolic and other physical problems that are often undiagnosed. And because obesity can also result from psychiatric drugs, calling it a mental illness would create a vicious cycle: Someone is troubled, put them on drugs, they become obese, therefore diagnose them as mentally ill, give them more drugs.

All I can say to this is that if they manage to list obesity as a mental illness, we are in for a world of hurt. That way lies madness - a Catch-22 with no solution.


  1. Oooo... nice post. Psych meds have messed with my weight as well... sometimes I get thinner than usual... more often than thinner I get much fatter on psych meds. That said, I wouldn't stop taking my meds for the sake of being thinner. I spent years trying non-med options and did find some improvement, but only got so far. It's either meds or my mind is foggy and my brain says really disturbing things to me night and day until I am suicidal... I'd rather be fat.

  2. agreed. I personally know someone, a young girl i worked with who had a TBI and was on depakote.....which she really didnt need, she was stable and the gunshot ran through her cheek, to her temple, it didnt really give her bad episodes (anymore) that would need such a drug...she was over 400lb, couldnt walk and stuck in a wheelchair...after getting the doctors to get her off of it (the FIRST thing i do as a home nurse is look up all thier pills and why they are prescribed) she dropped over 150 about a year.....with NO change to physical activity or diet. When i stopped working with her she was learning to stand, on her way to walking. she lost 15 years to weight due to depakote....and I KNOW she is not the only one.

  3. AGR - I quite agree. If my options are being depressed/suicidal without meds, or fat with meds, I'll take fat with meds any time.

  4. One of depression's symptoms is "unexplained weight gain or loss". I gained some weight on SSRIs, but not as much as I gained with depression that wasn't medicated.

  5. I would have loved to have seen studies sited in that article at the Boston Globe. It makes sense that the humongous increase in prescribed anti-depressants (and other psychotropic drugs) over the past 30 years correlates to the timeline of increased weight in our country. If there is a study supporting this, I would love to see it on the evening news. Additionally, I would love to hear what the powers that be would say about this when asked if eliminating these drugs would be better for people overall. I have a feeling no one would dare utter those words. The result of people giving up their medications would be very detrimental to the quality of like they lead and everyone would feel its effects. I just wish they would just admit they don't know how to make us all skinny and treat me like a human being.

  6. Fantastic post Vesta on a really important subject.

    Rather than make a whole lot of comments now, I'll have to do a post on it myself later.

  7. I have to say, this is not good science. A correlation is meaningless. You could just as easily blame the Simpsons for the obesity increase, because it was on the TV during the same time period. It's like meeting someone whose partner has the same name as yours: it's a correlation, but there's no deeper meaning attached to it.

    There have been many similar scares in the past (people linking schizophrenia to caffeine because schizophrenics tend to drink a lot of coffee, but that doesn't mean the coffee made them sick). If medicated obese people were over-represented (which I doubt) there could be many other good reasons for it, all of which would need to be looked in to before pointing any fingers.

    Unfortunately, the Boston Daily articles reeks of calculated scapegoating. If the author ever had any scientific integrity, they've obviously thrown it away to try to make a quick buck on a crappy book designed to feed people's prejudices and irrational fears.

    I'm not saying that doctors (particularly in the US) aren't prone to over-prescribe some of these things, but I'd blame the people who market the things as universal cure-alls. As far as blaming the rise in obesity on it, there's no reason why a wide variety of different drugs would all have the same hidden side-effect, with no common factors or even consistent delivery methods. And a strong correlation between medication and obesity would have stood out like crazy in almost any random data mining situation. You couldn't hide such a simple link.

  8. Chris - We all know that correlation is not causation, tell that to all the doctors who have been telling fat people that if they don't lose weight right now, they'll be dead in 5 years because obesity has correlations to heart disease and diabetes and strokes, etc, etc, etc.
    But all of those things are trumpeted from the rooftops at the top of media's lungs, just to keep fat people scared and buying into the mythperception that we need to diet and exercise to a fare-thee-well lest we drop dead immediately (which isn't happening, and hasn't been happening).
    And are there any studies that have been done on the correlation between psychiatric drugs and weight gain? Nope, sure haven't been. Haven't even been any data dredges, because Maude forbid there should be any news that fat people just might NOT be at fault for being fat. After all, if we're not at fault for being fat, then there's no good reason to hate us and discriminate against us (not that there is anyway, but it's so much easier to hate when you can blame the object of your hate for the reason for that hate).


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