Are Psychiatric Medications Causing Your Weight Gain?

Obesity is an epidemic–or at least a major concern for many Americans. We obsess over diet fads, exercise machines, portion control, and The Biggest Loser, all in an effort to get our ballooning waistlines in check. However, according to some researchers, we are looking in all the wrong places for the reason why we’re so fat. Instead of oversized and calorie-laden fast food meals, at least one expert is starting to wonder if the cause of our nation’s weight gain is prescription psychiatric drugs.

Paula J. Caplan, a clinician and research psychologist at Harvard University, suspects that the seemingly non-serious “side effects” of psychiatric medications are to blame for our weight problems. She argues that the sudden weight gain of many Americans occurred during the same time period that psychiatric drugs picked up in popularity–that is, the average weight of an adult has increased by 25 pounds since 1960 while prescriptions of psychiatric drugs to US adults also increased by 73% between 1996 and 2006 alone. What troubles Caplan even more so is that children aren’t left out of the equation. In fact, over the past two decades the number of obese children has tripled while prescriptions of psychiatric drugs to children from 1996-2006 increased by 50%.

While there are obviously a myriad of causes of obesity, Caplan would like to see First Lady Michelle Obama include the link between obesity and psychiatric drugs in her new initiative to tackle childhood obesity. Furthermore, she stresses that doctors alert patients to potential side effects as well as other non-drug ways to treat mental illnesses. Most importantly, she wants our society from vilifying the overweight and obese for simply “lacking self-control”. Instead, she hopes that the Food and Drug Administration will hold prescription drug companies accountable for concealing the obesity-psychiatric medication connection.