Kate Fowler, a 47-year-old grandmother from Delamere, Cheshire, was prescribed diet pills by her doctor in the 1970s.
“Like most women at the time I was desperate to lose weight,” she said. “I am 5ft 5in and at the time weighed 170 pounds. Looking back I wasn’t that overweight but I was very depressed about it and went to my general practitioner.
“On my first visit he told me to eat sensibly and do some exercise but it didn’t seem to work so I went back and he put me on a kind of amphetamine.
“I took it immediately for two weeks and it was like being on speed. I was raring to go. I couldn’t sleep, I had so much energy. I was up at 5am cleaning windows and Hoovering, zipping around like a madwoman. My family really noticed the difference because all of a sudden I was so manic.
“I felt no hunger and ate nothing more than an apple each day. I lost 7lb in the first week and 5lb in the second. I thought it was marvelous. But when the prescription ran out I went from being as high as a kite to being like a slug on the floor. I was suffering withdrawal symptoms and went to the doctor but he wouldn’t give me any more, despite my pleas. I was absolutely worn out and desperate for some more to make me feel energetic again.
“My appetite came straight back but, because I went from eating an apple to eating ‘normally’ again, it was like stuffing my face. Within days I piled on the 12lb I’d lost and then put on 12lb more, and my weight kept creeping up and up.
“In the end, I was one of the lucky ones because my doctor didn’t give me any more: it could have been endless. After a few weeks the effects passed and because I could remember how awful it was I was never tempted again.
“The thing about diet pills is they don’t teach you how to eat healthily, which is what you need. They teach you to not eat at all. But it is very seductive. As a Weightwatchers leader I meet thousands of people desperate to lose weight and for some of them it is easier to take a few pills than go through a diet and exercise program.”
Women Who Would Die to Have a Model Figure
Women who say that they would die to have the figure to wear this year’s designers’ collections fail to realize that the diet pills some of them take to achieve this aim could put the statement to the test, for diet pills can be lethal.
Reviewers have been ecstatic about designs shown during the current London Fashion Week. Outfits have been described as stunning, dazzling and outrageous. Outrageous because they leave so much of the models uncovered and because the look is one of elegant slimness that can be aspired to, rather than of childlike skinny-ness. Photographs of the models will encourage many young women to think that, with a bit more resolve and a few more diet pills, they too could have a model’s figure.
Recent research, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, into the background of 95 patients with primary pulmonary hypertension, a rare but deadly condition, showed that nearly a third of those affected by it had taken appetite suppressants prescribed by their doctors.
Pulmonary hypertension is a condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries leading to the lungs is increased. In primary pulmonary hypertension, the condition which affects dieters, the cause is often unknown. Primary pulmonary hypertension affects women five times as often as men and usually is obvious at 35. Within two to five years of diagnosis the majority of sufferers have died, either from sudden collapse or progressive heart failure.
Martindales Pharmacopoeia, the authoritative textbook on drugs, reports that primary pulmonary hypertension is most likely to complicate the taking of diet pills if they have been prescribed for too long a period, or if the courses of therapy were repeated too frequently.
In the past diet pills have been condemned for being habit forming and as a cause of agitation, over-excitement, depression and insomnia, and even as a trigger for schizophrenic breakdown. It seems that they will also have to be thought of as a cause of sinister heart failure in young women.