In the past, people looking for diet pills could only choose from stimulants such as ephedra, fen-phen or Dexedrine. Food and Drug Administration officials have banned many stimulants from the market entirely, and have urged doctors to reserve use of drugs such as Dexedrine for illnesses such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In the 21st century, dieters can choose from several types of prescription and over-the-counter weight loss aids that do not include stimulants.
People over the age of 18 who want a relatively safe, stimulant-free diet aid might consider Alli, according to the Mayo Clinic. Alli, available over the counter, contains 60 milligrams of the fat-blocking drug orlistat. This ingredient helps dieters digest less fat and pass it through their bowel movements. But a few people have alleged that orlistat damaged their livers. If you experience symptoms like jaundice or dark-colored urine while taking Alli, seek emergency medical intervention.
Xenical is a prescription drug with 120 milligrams of orlistat, according to the Mayo Clinic. People taking Xenical and practicing good eating and exercise habits tend to lose five to seven pounds more each year than they would have without diet drugs. Alli users usually lose three to five more pounds annually than they would have with just diet and exercise. But people who eat more than 15 grams of fat at a meal are more likely to experience unpleasant side effects such as uncontrollable bowel movements, rectal pain and fatty stools.
Some doctors prescribe the antidepressant drug bupropion to help patients lose weight, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Bupropion, usually marketed as Wellbutrin or Zyban, is not a stimulant but helps regulate chemicals in the brain such as serotonin. Thus, the patient is less likely to engage in destructive behaviors like smoking or overeating due to depression or anxiety. Bupropion does carry the risk of side effects such as increased depression and excitement, especially in people under the age of 24.
Some patients can lose weight by taking the drug Topiramate or Topamax, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Topiramate is usually prescribed to manage seizures or bipolar disorder, but some doctors use it "off label" to help patients lose weight without stimulants. Potential side effects of Topiramate include dry mouth, depression, headaches and a change in the ability to taste food.