Illinois Doctor Prescribes Amphetamine To Help Kids Lose Weight and Avoid Type 2 Diabetes

This article was originally published in our February/March 2008 edition of Diabetes Health.

| May 22, 2008

Teenage obesity is a growing problem. Not only does it make teens susceptible to type 2 diabetes, but it's also very hard on the teens themselves, who are often bullied or ostracized because of their weight. What can a doctor do when a teen can't seem to lose weight with diet and exercise?

One physician has found success with such patients by prescribing Adderall, an amphetamine that's normally used for attention-deficit disorder.

Dr. Fuad Ziai, a pediatric endocrinologist, has prescribed Adderall to over 800 overweight children and teens, more than ninety percent of whom have lost weight. He believes that the drug, combined with Glucophage, has helped the children avoid type 2 diabetes and he believes that there was no other option.

The ADA publication DOC News quotes Dr. Ziai as saying, "What we have noticed is that once they begin to lose weight, following failure after failure, suddenly there is an increase in self esteem and confidence. As a result of this positive development, they begin to do things on their own about exercise and diet. This establishes a virtuous cycle in place of the vicious cycle they were in before."

Dr. Ziai's concerns about obesity among young people are borne out by statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys: the prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents is 16 percent among girls and 18.2 percent among boys.

But is it really a good idea to prescribe amphetamine to children off-label? Adderall is classed as a Schedule II controlled substance because of its potential for addiction and abuse. After its introduction in the mid-1950s as a weight-loss drug based on an older drug named Obetrol, Adderall counted pop artist Andy Warhol and Beat Generation icon Neal Cassidy among its frequent users. Later, Adderall was re-purposed into a treatment for childhood attention-deficit disorder.

Adderall is hugely popular on college campuses as a study aid because of its speed-like effects. Just recently, former Vice-President Gore's son was arrested with it in his possession without a prescription; he was driving 100 miles per hour at the time. On the other hand, Adderall has apparently helped hundreds of teens lose weight under medical supervision without ill effect. Whether Dr. Ziai is doing the right thing is certainly debatable.

Source: Go to and search for Adderall Ziai

Diabetes Heath Board Member Checks In

Editor-in-Chief Scott King interviewed Keith Campbell, RPh, CDE, about using amphetamines to help children lose weight. Campbell, a professor of pharmacy at Washington State University who has lived with type 1 for 49 years, have a surprisingly candid answer.

Scott King: Dr. Ziai is a pediatric endocrinologist who is putting his overweight kids on Adderall – and sometimes metformin – and they are losing weight and feeling good. Of course, Adderall is speed. People criticize him, but he says there’s nothing else that works and his patients are losing the weight. What’s your reaction to that?

Keith Campbell: Well, if it works, then I think it’s a good idea. Remember, drugs either speed up or slow down normal physiological reactions. So, if you speed up normal physiological reactions, you’re going to have some side effects, and if you slow them down, you’re going to have some side effects.

A good way to look at drugs is to find the balance between the effect and the side effects. If the side effects are greatly outweighed by the beneficial impact of the drug, then we’re willing to tolerate them a bit. And I think people who think that way, like this physician, are doing everybody a service to kind of check that out. Since Adderall isn’t approved for weight loss in children with diabetes, there is a little bit of legal risk and so on, but the thinking makes sense.

Read Patient Advocacy Advisor Joan Hoover's response to this article.

Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Categories: Amphetamines, Diabetes, Diabetes, Kids & Teens, Losing weight, Type 1 Issues, Type 2 Issues, Weight Loss

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Posted by Anonymous on 18 March 2008

This is just wrong. Drugging a child for weight loss sends the wrong message. Get the kid off the couch (ban videogames if necessary), feed the child better, and encourage exercise. THAT's how all people should lose weight. Not a quick pill solution.

Posted by Anonymous on 20 May 2008

I have a friend that overdosed in college on Aderall. People who dont have ADD react differently the drug. It makes people paranoid and suicidal- doctors should know that before perscribing this to children-
Dr. Keith Campbell is a sick man.

Posted by Anonymous on 20 May 2008

I don't think kids should diet. They are very susceptible to developing eating disorders. Eating disorders kill people faster than obesity.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 August 2008

im pretty sure you guys have always been skinny and have no idea what your talking about, the doctor obviously knows the risks and wouldn't prescribe enough of it to cause an overdose, some people have so much trouble losing weight and no its not because there lazy and eat to much... alot of people have a genetic disorder, such as i by the way, i was so depressed i nearly killed myself, i think this is a great idea to give people who have tried everything else some self confidence

Posted by Anonymous on 5 August 2008

The Dr just wants these teenagers be sick forever! Instead of good diet and exercising, he prescribes one drug with potential side effect as liver or kidney failure in combination with the second one with addiction and danger of sudden death...

Also, eating DISORDER is not DIETING, it is a psychological disorder most often (like bulemia). Obesity is not a disorder of mind, it is a disorder of LIFE style. There is no pharmaceutical drug for it but common sence.
Most drs are loosing their common sence of human physilogy in face of money.

Posted by Anonymous on 21 August 2008

Why can't older obese people get a prescription for this? I have been overweight all of my life. I have tried everything and nothing helps. I have a very slow thyroid problem.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 October 2008

Josef Hoffman here, didn't want to take the time to register. It's great that diet and exercise worked for a lot of you guys, but have some compassion for those who have not found success with that route. I've been thin as a rail my whole life, but then, I'm also hyperactive, nervous, and have ADD on top of that. So I suppose I should tell all overweight people to worry, fidget, and pace around all day like I do, I mean, it worked for me....I am glad that this professional physician is willing to take a level headed approach to exploring the use of medication for treatment. Since for so much of my life I was unable to gain weight even if I wanted to, I find it hard to believe that people who are overweight merely lack the will to eat a few less donuts. I've worked with people who got fat eating less garbage than I eat. If someone gains confidence, better health, and emotional well being through the responsible use of a well documented, well understood medication, then I am happy for them. Have some compassion and show a little understanding. Just because some idiots want to abuse a drug (one that makes it possible for me many others to be productive) doesn't mean that other responsible people should be cut off from its therapeutic benefits.

Posted by David Darell Galbraith on 11 November 2008

click on the Joan Hoover response to this article and check out my response to Joan's response.

David Darell Galbraith

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