If something sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. It’s a rule of thumb that we all learn with age and experience. But for the young and the vulnerable, a quick fix can seem just that: an instant answer, a magic bullet. To those who are overweight and struggling with low-level depression and poor self-image, popping an illicit diet pill might appear like a miracle cure; but it’s a magic bullet that can kill.
This week an inquest opened into the tragic death of 21-year-old Eloise Parry from Shrewsbury, England, who bought highly toxic diet pills on the internet, took an overdose and died.
The tablets contained the banned substance Dinitrophenol, or DNP, that is known to speed up the metabolism and burn off fat. Having consumed eight pills – six more than the lethal dose – Eloise calmly drove herself to A&E.
She had no idea there wasn’t any antidote until a toxicity test revealed that nothing could be done to save her. Eloise’s final hours were wretched; her metabolism was so irretrievably damaged by DNP that her temperature soared to the point she was effectively boiled alive inside her own body.
“She never intended to take her life,” her mother, Fiona Parry (51), said. “She just never really understood how dangerous the tablets were.”
It’s impossible not to feel appalled at such a freak occurrence; except what happened to Eloise, a bright young woman who was studying Families and Childcare at Glyndwr University in Wrexham, Wales, was not a one-off. In 2008, Selena Walrond, a 26-year old from Croydon, south London, was found dead in a freezing bath.