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28 years of taking phentermine: A woman shares her story
Tuesday, May 04, 2004 12:17 pm Email this article
Debra, a mother of three from Chelan, Washington has taken diet pills for well over 20 years. "I'm 5-foot-1 tall and started out weighing about 140 lbs," Debra recalls.
STARTING IN 1974, SHE TOOK AMPHETAMINES FOR TWO YEARS
Starting in 1974 she was prescribed amphetamines for two years.
“My weight dropped to 96 lbs,” Debra recalls.
“I didn’t stick to any diet plan, I just took the pills whenever I gained a few pounds and they took away my hunger.”
But, as many early diet pill users remember, amphetamines tended to make people feel hyperactive.
“I was doing things like folding paper sacks and washing ceilings in the middle of the night,” Debra laughs. “It was crazy.”
SHE ADDED PHENTERMINE
Her doctor prescribed phentermine along with the amphetamines.
“Phentermine was a four o’clock pill. I took the amphetamine in the morning and the phentermine at four o’clock in the afternoon.”
SHE STOPPED THE AMPHETAMINES, BUT CONTINUED PHENTERMINE
Then in 1976 she stopped the amphetamines but continued taking the phentermine.
“For the next ten years I continued taking the phentermine as I needed it,” Debra remembers.
SHE MAINTAINED HER IDEAL WEIGHT OF 113-118
“I maintained my weight in what I considered to be my ideal range, between 113 and 118 lbs.”
SHE GAINED WEIGHT WITH HER THIRD CHILD
Then in 1985 she stopped taking the medicine and gained weight after becoming pregnant with her third child.
After the birth she needed to lose about 40 lbs.
IT WAS DIFFICULT FINDING A DOCTOR TO PRESCRIBE PHENTERMINE
However, she found it difficult finding a doctor who would write her a prescription which certainly reflected the attitudes about diet pills at that time.
“When I finally found one, he would only give me the phentermine while I was losing weight,” Debra reflects.
“So after I lost 30 lbs, he took me off the drug and slowly I gained it all back,” she said. “Then we did it all again. I was losing and gaining, losing and gaining. The doctor didn’t seem to care, but it was very frustrating for me. I was trying my best to keep the weight off. I was working out at a gym three times a week and walking two miles per day, but the weight always came back.”
AFTER SHE LOST 30 LBS, THE DOCTOR TOOK HER OFF PHENTERMINE AND SHE GAINED IT ALL BACK
“So after I lost 30 lbs, he took me off the drug and slowly I gained it all back… it was very frustrating for me. I was trying my best to keep the weight off. I was working out at a gym three times a week and walking two miles per day, but the weight always came back.”
SHE REALIZED SHE WAS DIFFERENT THAN A NATURALLY THIN PERSON
That’s when she realized that her brain or body seemed to work differently than that of a naturally thin person.
“I realized that my brain processed information about food differently than others. The phentermine helped me maintain my weight. Without it I simply couldn’t keep the weight off, no matter how hard I tried.”
“The phentermine helped me maintain my weight. Without it I simply couldn’t keep the weight off, no matter how hard I tried.”
PAXIL CAUSED HER TO GAIN WEIGHT
Some people assume serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil will cause weight loss because they work on serotonin.
Studies show that high doses of Prozac alone cause weight loss in the short-term, but not long-term. And Paxil is known to cause weight gain.
Debra found this out the hard way.
“My doctor tried me on Paxil to raise my serotonin levels, but I gained 19 lbs. It didn’t work for me.”
As with any drug there are possible side effects, interactions and idiosyncrasies.
“I usually don’t have any side effects, but sometimes I get dry mouth or feel speedy,” Debra notes.
ALCOHOL AND PHENTERMINE DON’T MIX
She has also found that alcohol and phentermine don’t mix.
“If I have a drink on Friday night, I skip my phentermine on Saturday or else it will make me feel sick. It also doesn’t work before my period.”
FINDING A DOCTOR
Debra recently switched physicians following the retirement of her doctor, but it took some searching.
“I looked on America On Line. It seems like a lot of people are having trouble finding doctors to prescribe the medicines. I finally found an informed doctor who has studied the medicines and understood my struggle.”
A SENSE OF CONTROL
As Fen-Phen users often used to describe, the medicine gives her a sense of control over what she eats.
“It gives me time to make the right choices,” Debra says.
“I take the time to make healthier meals and make better choices. When I wasn’t taking the medicine, I ate whatever was quick and easy. Dinner might have been potato chips, cottage cheese and a glass of milk. I just ate whatever was there.”
SHE CONTINUES TAKING PHENTERMINE ON AN AS-NEEDED-BASIS
“I hope that more doctors become educated about the medicines,” she adds.
“They are not a `magic bullet’ and you can certainly `out eat’ the medicines and gain weight. It still takes work to eat healthy, but the medicine makes that part of my life less time-consuming and less stressful. Like I said, it helps me make better choices about what I put in my mouth.”
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