TikTok has removed posts promoting migraine and epilepsy drugs to under-18s as weight loss aids after criticism that harboring them is a health hazard for young people.
The social media platform, which is popular among teenagers, took action after a Pharmaceutical Journal investigation found users were being offered prescription drugs as diet pills.
The newspaper revealed that ads for epilepsy, alcohol and drug addiction and migraine medication were being promoted to a TikTok user despite being registered as a girl under 16.
An appetite suppressant drug called phentermine and products made from it were the most frequently mentioned prescription drugs in the posts. Phentermine is not licensed for use in the UK.
In the 90 minutes spent viewing the platform’s results, the newspaper found that 31 of the 100 most popular posts promoted the use of diet pills for people wishing to lose weight. But health experts said it was “completely inappropriate” for people of all ages and could cause harm. Some of the drugs featured on TikTok have been linked to birth defects and other serious side effects.
“Unrealistic food claims not backed by scientific evidence on social media can be dangerous no matter what your age. But for those under 16, they can have very real consequences,” the British Dietetic Association says.
John Wilding, professor of medicine at Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool, said another of the drugs on sale – topiramate, which is used to treat epilepsy and migraines – “has never been approved for weight loss in the EU or UK as it has significant potential adverse effects”, including the risk of harm to unborn children and babies.
A TikTok spokesperson said: “Our community guidelines make it clear that we do not allow the promotion or trade of controlled substances, including prescription weight loss drugs, and we will remove content that violates these policies. .”
The newspaper said TikTok deleted some videos but not all of those it found. It had reviewed the hashtag “diet pills” and also banned “multiple accounts” selling diet drugs.
TikTok also came under fire on Wednesday for allowing cannabis-based sweets to be sold on its site doctored to look like bags of Haribos and Skittles.
The annual assessment of the state of children’s wellbeing in the UK by the Children’s Society has revealed that a growing number of girls are unhappy with the way they look.
The percentage of girls aged 10 to 15 who expressed dissatisfaction with their appearance rose from one in seven (15%) in 2015 to almost one in five (18%) – which the body reports. charities called it a “worrying leap”. That means around 411,000 of them feel it, he said in his latest Good Childhood report. Far fewer boys – 10% – expressed such dissatisfaction.
The Children’s Society research, based on analyzes collected from 2,100 children whose families participate in the long-running Understanding Society project, also found that:
Far more (12%) say they are unhappy at school, an increase of 3% from 10 years ago, with older children more likely to feel this way.
“It is desperately worrying that the wellbeing of children is in this state of decline, with large numbers of girls unhappy with school and thousands of girls struggling with their appearance,” said Mark Russell, chief executive of association.
He urged ministers to speed up the deployment of mental health support teams to schools in England and set up ‘early support centres’ across the country to help mentally challenged under-18s.