Fat and Happy

So, when I was growing up in the 1970s, drugs were funny.  Saturday Night Live skits showed people getting high, “druggie” comic acts like Cheech & Chong were popular enough to get their own movies, and stars doing cocaine were considered “glamorous”.

Fortunately, I think we’ve gotten way past those stereotypes, but it’s funny the things that can promote scientific inquiry sometimes.

One of the enduring characteristics of pot-smoking is an increase in appetite, commonly referred to as “the munchies”.  When the cannabinoid receptors were discovered an isolated in the late 1980s, folks in research thought – hey if activating this system makes you hungry, then blocking it should decrease appetite and lead to weight loss.

Good hypothesis – and one that turns out to be correct.  Over the past couple of years, French drug-maker Sanofi Aventis has looked to get approval for their drug Acomplia (which blocks the cannabinoid pathways) which does a pretty good job inducing weight loss.

But it seems to me that people don’t smoke pot to get hungry, they smoke it to get happy.  And it turns out that in addition to blocking the “hungry” effects of the mechanism, Acomplia also blocks the “happy” parts as well – the main side effects are depression and even thoughts of suicide.  Because of these effects, the FDA denied approval of Acomplia in the US, though the EU had approved it.  (The EU label has more warnings than a flame-thrower in a gunpowder factory…)

Today, there was more bad news for Acomplia as the UK’s version of the FDA said that since 2006 there had been 5 deaths in the UK associated with Acomplia use (one to suicide) and hundreds of other adverse-events.  It will be interesting to see if the drug remains on the market there and I imagine SA can scrap their already slim hopes of getting it approved here (though they are working hard to argue that the drug is safe “enough”).  I’m sure there is a ton of ongoing work to see if it’s possible to separate the feeding from mood effects from each other.

I guess my points are that every drug ever sold has a risk-benefit balance and every product is going to have some side effect profile.  Our job (and that of the medical community) is to decide whether the life-saving and quality-of-life-saving benefits outweigh the downside.  As for this drug??  For me, and my loved ones, I would rather keep those few extra pounds — or, God forbid, eat better and exercise more.

(Interesting side note: I could not find Acomplia listed under SA's product listing on their webiste…)

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15 thoughts on “Fat and Happy

  1. (The EU label has more warnings than a flame-thrower in a gunpowder factory…)I hope you coined this phrase because it is awesome. One big aspect for my big eating habits is not hunger as much as a love of eating. Part of me says I would rather eat happier and live a little shorter life than east miserably and live a little longer, but the older I get, the less I feel that way.

  2. I've never been a fan of "diet drugs" even when I was overweight. The side effects just plain scared me. I just can't see being on a drug unless it's really really necessary. I'm knocking those people that has legitimate reasons to be on medication. I'm just not going to take them until a doctor says it's better for my health to be on one rather than off.

  3. It makes perfect sense to me….
    Diet = Crabby
    Eat Whatever I Want = Happy
    (Although I have to admit that on SBD I haven't been too crabby, which is more than I can say for any other diet I've ever been on, probably because I eat more [and more often] on SBD than on any other diet I've ever been on!)

  4. This is funny. I've been going through a variety of food related evals. One doc mentioned that Both Wellbutrin and Zoloft have been used for people who "binge eat" (wouldn't let me have either….bah!) and have shown about 12 pounds of weight loss. Seems that this would be better than a drug that causes depression!

  5. CA — thanks –yep, I made that up on the spot as I wrote it. I think I was trying to channel my inner Dennis Miller…
    I tend to agree with you about food — though i have been using the M-word (moderation) more frequently as I get older….

  6. Janie — like Jamie, I don't think I can imagine you overweight. I completely agree that no presecription should be entered into lightly and that the overall benefits need to be weighed against the consequences. I think too many people are looking for an easy-out.

  7. Mello — from everything I've heard and read SBD is a very good way to incorporate healthy eating habits into your life.
    Oh, and you know there are cannabinoids in chocolate, right?

  8. Katie — that's so funny. This afternoon I came across an article on "Viewing Obesity as an Addiction" — with the idea that eating like that can be just as addictive for some as smoking, drinking, gambling or —er— blogging.

  9. I knew there was some kind of happy chemical in chocolate, but I didn't know what the name of it was. Bonus – I get to have chocolate on SBD, as long as it's 70% or more cacao. Which is great because then the cannabinoids are more concentrated, I'd assume.
    You're right, too, about SBD being a way to incorporate healthy eating habits into your life. Eating several servings of fruit & veggies is just the norm for us anymore. Not that I don't crave a big greasy hamburger now & then, but the day will come when I can have that occasionally. (It irritates me that so many people give me "that look" when they hear I'm SBD and call it a "low-carb diet," to which I respond, It's not Atkins! I've done Atkins too, and after the first 2 weeks, it's not the same!)

  10. One thing I've been able to do is really cut down (I won't say cut-out, b/c that, sadly, would be false) on crappy chocolate — I'd much rather have a little bit of the good stuff than more of that.
    We had big greasy hamburgers (and onion rings & shakes) at a favorite place last weekend when my brother was visiting. I loved it but felt sort of disgusting afterwards — which is good negative reinforcement to make sure that it doesn't happen too often… :)

  11. I'm on the Zone Diet, hardly ever eat bread and watch my carbs. I lift weights 3- 4 times a week. I'm 5'-9" tall & weigh 179 lbs. more muscle than fat- 18% body fat. At one time I weighed over 230!

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