Sarah Houston, 23, is dead.
The Leeds University student died from “misadventure”, according to the coroner, after reacting badly to a weight-loss drug she had taken, known as DNP, alongside anti-depressants.
The irony in this case, as I see it, is that Miss Houston was a medical student and the fifth person in her family to train as a doctor. Apparently, all that medical knowledge wasn’t enough to change the fact that she, like 1.6m other people in the UK, suffered from an eating disorder and obsession about weight. Hospital admissions for eating disorders increased by 16 per cent between 2011 and 2012, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre. That’s almost 2,300 admissions in the year to June 2012, but nobody really knows how many people suffer from eating disorders because most of them keep it secret.
And, sadly, many turn to drugs like DNP. Miss Houston’s family, and the coroner, have pressed for further government action to limit access to such drugs. DNP is technically illegal, except for its primary use as a pesticide, but can easily be bought online at websites such as 1buydnp.com, which markets the drug as “probably the most powerful but also dangerous fat burner on planet.” The website home page adds: “Seeing results after few days is nothing impossible, DNP works also for heavy roids addict to clean receptors so they can start with new cycle again and get the results as for the first time.”
Miss Houston is not the first death. She’s number 63. Just last month, Sarmad Alladin, nicknamed “Mr Muscles”, died. He was 18. And judging by widespread chatter about DNP in online body-building forums, it’s a popular experiment. User Maztrikz on muscletalk.co.uk documents his day-to-day use of DNP, which makes excruciating reading.
Bottom line: there is plenty of help available for people with weight-loss problems or body-building addictions. But do they know they need it?