Desperate Diets: Nicole

Hooked on Diet Pills
Dr. Phil speaks with girls putting their lives at risk to be skinny.
Nicole, 24, weighed over 300 pounds in high school, and will go to great lengths to avoid being that heavy again. "When I was growing up, I always felt different, like an outcast. The things that I experienced from kids in my high school, I wouldn't do to my worst enemy," she says. When Nicole was 21, she started taking diet pills. At first it was two a day, but it escalated to 24 pills a day. In two years, Nicole lost 160 pounds. "[The pills] gave me tons of energy. I could stay up all night, 24 hours a day, so I just continued to take them and every time I tried to stop, I could feel myself starting to get heavier," she says.

Nicole knows that what she's doing is risky. "At one point I passed out. I remember my heart beating so fast," she says, but isn't going to stop taking the pills. "To stop taking the diet pills right now is not an option. I know about the side effects. I'm willing to risk it because I'm not going to get heavy again," says Nicole.

"If you told me I could live forever, but I'd have to live forever at 310 pounds, then I wouldn't want to live forever. If you told me I could have five years of supermodel thin, I'd pick the five years over the forever any day," she says.
When Nicole's mother, Dianne, started to notice that her daughter was losing weight, she thought she was doing it the right way, with exercise. Then she learned it was with diet pills. "When I first confronted Nicole, she told me she was following the dosage on the bottle and taking the appropriate amounts," says Dianne. "When Nicole got down to about 140, I noticed that her attitude was changing. She was shaking all the time, on edge and very defensive. Whenever I talk to Nicole about it, she gets very angry and she just walks out."

Dianne is very concerned about her daughter, who she says spends a lot of time trying to look perfect. "Now that she's lost all this weight, instead of getting yelled at and made fun of every day, she's getting all this attention that she never got." But Dianne thinks Nicole is going overboard. "Dr. Phil, how can I get my daughter to stop abusing these dangerous diet pills before it's too late?"
Dr. Phil asks Dianne, who wipes tears from her eyes, why she wrote to him now.

Dianne explains that Nicole recently confessed to her that she'd had a nose bleed that wouldn't stop and she feared dying. "I just didn't know what to do. Because I love her dearly, but I don't know what to do for her at this point," she says.

Dr. Phil asks Nicole, "You didn't write the letter and you didn't ask to come here. So why did you come?"

"Because I know that it's a problem that I have. That I need to stop," admits Nicole, speaking slowly.

"So you're getting high on diet pills every day, right?" he asks.

"Right," says Nicole.

"In fact, it would be safe to assume, by the body twitches I'm seeing in you now, and having done this for 30 years, that you're high right now," says Dr. Phil. "So what have you taken so far today?"

"So far today, just six ... 12," she says.
Dr. Phil points out that even if the pills were prescribed to Nicole, she's taken 400 percent of the dosage. "And we're just in the early afternoon so far," observes Dr. Phil. "You have body tremors, your hands are shaking, you have facial tics around your mouth and your speech is altered. Do you see those things yourself?"

"Yeah, I realize that those things are there," says Nicole.

"So you know that and you're saying, 'I'm willing to do that because the other place is so much worse than this place.' You're saying that it's the lesser of two evils."

"Right," agrees Nicole.

Dr. Phil wants to know which Nicole he's talking to " the one who wants help, or the one who says she won't stop taking the pills.

"Some days I wake up and think 'OK, I'm not going to take that many today, and if I just take two, it'll be OK and I won't gain any weight because I'm still taking them; but I'm taking less.' But I've built up such a tolerance, I've got to take them four at a time. Or it's like I didn't take them," says Nicole, explaining that when she doesn't take them, she has no energy and risks getting hungry.
Dr. Phil asks Nicole if there was a healthy way for her to maintain or lose weight without the fear that she would go back to her old weight, would she do it.

Nicole explains that she's tried to lose weight through exercise, but was tired all the time. "I need them for energy," she says.

"No, you don't need them for energy. What you're doing is going through withdrawal," says Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Marcy Gurvey, an internal medicine physician and former director of the eating disorders program at NYU. Dr. Gurvey explains that Nicole's elevated blood pressure is solely being caused by the amount of stimulants that she is taking. "She is at very high risk for an irregular heartbeat, sudden cardiac death, a heart attack, a stroke, a bleed into the brain, along with the other side effects that she's already experiencing, which are the twitches, the tremors, the nervousness, the excitation ... Without a doubt, she's a grave risk."
Dr. Phil asks Nicole: If she had the support and the resources, would she take the risk of doing something other than taking the pills?

"I could tell you yes, but if I put the first three pounds back on, it would be done," says Nicole. "I feel like I'm in control of my weight right now. And my life when I was in high school was hell. And I can't do that again because I am not strong enough."

Dr. Phil tells Nicole that those aren't her only two choices " to be where she is now, or go back to where she was in high school. "I understand that you don't want to go back there. But I also understand that you are addicted to drugs at this point. I understand that your friend says that 80 percent of your diet at this point is alcohol and that you are beginning to strip yourself of and abandon everything that you've ever cared about because you are totally controlled by this monkey on your back."

Nicole says her life in high school was very isolating. "I didn't do anything or go anywhere or talk to anybody because I just stayed in my room," she says, explaining that she only started developing socially once she lost weight.
"Do you think on your current course you'll see 30?" Dr. Phil asks Nicole.

"No, but I can't worry about that right now," replies Nicole.

"You can't worry about that right now because drugs are clouding your mind."

"I really don't care," she says.

"There is a part of you that does," says Dr. Phil. "If you could have what you want without the drugs, would that be preferable to where you are now?"

"Yes."

"If we provided you with the medical support to get off the drugs, and provided you with the technology you need in terms of nutritionists and exercise physiologists and people to help you with the programming and the planning, is that something you are willing to at least consider and embrace?"

"Yeah," she says.

"That's a beginning," Dr. Phil states.