Drug Abuse For Beauty? South Koreans Flock To Hospitals For Appetite Suppressants
A recent episode of KBS‘s show Straightforward Current Affairs has sparked renewed concern about drug abuse in South Korea. The specific abuse, however, is not recreational but for weight loss.
Recently, a woman in her 20s crashed into six cars in Seoul while hallucinating. It was found that she was on psychotropic drugs for a year to suppress her appetite. The case opened a pandora’s box, shocking people with how easy it is for people to get their hands on dangerous drugs and become a victim of their side effects.
It turns out many hospitals in Seoul do “open runs” to prescribe certain “medicines” that are advertised as appetite suppressants. According to the statistics provided by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, and the Korea Institute of Drug Safety and Management, in July 2022, the prescription for appetite suppressants surpassed 200 million pills for the third year in a row.
To fight the rampant distribution of these drugs, The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety set up specific safety standards, which include a BMI rate of 30 and above, short-term prescriptions of up to 4 weeks only, and prohibitions for adolescents. However, if doctors fail to adhere to these standards, they only receive a written warning without further retribution.
The April 7 episode of Straightforward Current Affairs unveiled how the issue has spread far and wide throughout the country. The show’s crew did rounds of multiple clinics in Seoul. At one hospital, dubbed as the “Holy Land of Diet,” they found over 70 people lying in the corridor, on mats and blankets from the night before, to receive appetite suppressants. A person claimed to have lost 12kgs with the help of the drug and said they were trying to maintain that lost weight now. While speaking to KBS, this patient said that waiting at the hospitals in summer is very hard since there are no ACs and staying awake is a real challenge.
At another hospital that went viral for treating obesity, the show found the same scenario. One patient said they lost 10 kgs without exercising or changing their eating habits. Someone said losing 5 kgs is a given, while another person said an acquaintance apparently lost 18 kgs with these appetite suppressants.
To fully understand how these drugs are placed in the hands of vulnerable civilians, the show’s crew went as far as to get the same prescription for themselves. During the consultation, when they asked the doctor about the possible side effects of the pills, they responded with a bunch of conditions, including insomnia, heart palpitations, nausea, numbness in hands, disorientation, headaches, etc. But the doctor also assured them that there are very few cases where patients experience these symptoms severely.
The crew got prescriptions from five different hospitals, and the drug composition was similar for all of them. They also talked to a pharmacist named Kim Yi Hang, who explained that these are epilepsy drugs being abused for their side effects of suppressing appetite. He said that the prescription contains a combination of many medications that excite the nerve to facilitate weight loss, and it can get patients anxious. So, he adds another drug to calm their nerves. Kim, however, showed concern about this growing trend of using drugs to lose weight. He admitted that these prescriptions are being handed recklessly, and that he finds it increasingly challenging to administer these dangerous drugs without the side effects.
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