Despite the growing obesity epidemic in the United States, Americans spend billions of dollars on dieting products each year, according to Creighton University. The lure of pills or new diets promising fast weight loss can be hard to resist -- even if they are ineffective or dangerous. Some dieters may even turn to prescription medications, such as Wellbutrin or Prozac, in the hopes that they'll reduce their appetites. Using these drugs for this purpose should never be undertaken without a doctor's supervision.
Type of Drugs
Both Wellbutrin and Prozac are antidepressants. They are prescribed to treat depression and other mental health problems. Wellbutrin, known generically as bupropion, may be prescribed to patients who are trying to stop smoking. Obsessive-compulsive, panic and premenstrual dysphoric disorders may require treatment with Prozac, or fluoxetine. Although both are antidepressants, they fall under different categories. Fluoxetine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, which affects the neurotransmitter called serotonin. Bupropion, on the other hand, affects the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine; it is considered an atypical antidepressant.
Prozac and Weight
Weight loss is a known side effect of fluoxetine; in fact, it may be prescribed as a treatment for obesity. Research findings published in September 2005 in Obesity Surgery found that adults with obesity who took a high dose of the drug -- 60 mg daily -- were able to lose weight and thereby chose to delay bariatric surgery. Fluoxetine's affect on weight makes it a concern for elderly patients as well as those dealing with depression or an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa.
Wellbutrin and Weight
Bupropion is not usually prescribed for weight loss, but it is a common side effect of this antidepressant. The sustained-release formula of bupropion, in particular, has been found to reduce appetite and contribute to loss of weight. Two Obesity Research studies, released in September 2001 and July 2002, both found that bupropion was well-tolerated and successful in instigating weight loss in adults with obesity. As with fluoxetine, the drug may not be appropriate for patients who have already lost weight due to depression or an eating disorder.
These drugs should be used only for their intended purposes and never taken unless under a doctor's care. Both of these antidepressants carry serious warnings; they may cause suicidal thoughts, irritability, aggressiveness and significant changes in mental function. They may cause a number of side effects including nausea, drowsiness, sweating and vomiting. Keep in mind that, in some cases, fluoxetine and bupropion can actually cause weight gain. Taking either of these drugs should be a decision made between doctor and patient.
- Creighton University: Statistics: Eating Disorders and Their Precursors
- HelpGuide.org; Types of Antidepressants and Their Side Effects; Melinda Smith, MA and Jeanne Segal, PhD
- "Obesity Surgery"; Daily High Doses of Fluoxetine for Weight Loss and Improvement in Lifestyle Before Bariatric Surgery; JG Dolfing, et al.; September 2005
- Health Canada: Drug Product Database
- "Obesity Research"; Bupropion for Weight Loss: An Investigation...; KM Gadde, et al.; Sept 2001
- "Obesity Research"; Bupropion SR Enhances...; JW Anderson, et al.; July 2002