Prescription Drug Side-Effects

People over the age of 65 consume more than a third of all prescription medications in the United States… almost a quarter of older Americans are sent to hospitals or nursing homes because of problems with medications. According to the California Pharmacists Association, more than 100,000 Americans die each year of adverse drug reactions. The annual bill for treating medication misuse is a stunning $177 billion.

Become an expert on what ails you – do your own research. The phrase “Ask your doctor” is a favorite in ads for pharmaceuticals, but the fact is that no doctor knows everything.

  • Find out as much as you can about your medications. Thousands die each year from medication errors. Know what you’re taking, what the name is, what the strength is and what it’s for.
  • After taking new medications, watch for new symptoms that could be side-effects.
  • Bring all of your medicines to the doctor with you – even over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies – so that your doctor can see everything you are taking and possibly detect conflicts.
  • Be on your guard, even in the hospital. Every time a drug is about to be administered, even intravenously, ask what it is.


Conditions that suggest Prescription Drug Side-Effects


Heartburn / GERD

A research team found a 65% increased risk of heartburn after bedtime in those who used benzodiazepine sleeping aids such as Ativan, Halcion, Valium and Xanax. [Chest May 2005;127(5): pp.1658-1666]


Elevated SHBG

Elevated levels of SHBG may be observed during administration of drugs, such as phenytoin, that promote hepatic enzyme induction.



Modest reductions in SHBG levels may be encountered in individuals receiving glucocorticoids such as prednisone.

Counter Indicators


When hyperparathyroidism is present, the likelihood of elevated serum calcium being caused by other conditions is obviously reduced.

Lab Values  


Organ Health  

Fatty Liver

Fatty liver may occurr with the use of certain drugs such as valproic acid (trade names: Depakene/Depakote) and corticosteroids (cortisone, prednisone).

Risk factors for Prescription Drug Side-Effects

Lab Values - Chemistries  

Elevated liver enzymes

Prescription and OTC medications can cause liver inflammation with elevations in liver enzymes. When discovered, the medication is usually discontinued.



It is possible for certain drugs that people are prescribed for high blood pressure to have an effect on the kidney in such a way that the kidney doesn’t let enough calcium escape the blood into the urine… and the excess calcium shows up as a high blood calcium test. The one drug that is typically associated with this is HCTZ (hydrochlorothyazide) which is a “water pill” used for blood pressure. If you have high blood calcium and you are on this drug your doctor will probably take you off of this medicine and then re-check your blood in a few weeks. Almost all the time this is not the problem (it is very rare) and your blood calcium will continue to be high and you will have hyperparathyroidism (like more than 98% of people do who have high blood calcium). Be careful of letting a doctor say that your blood calcium is high because you are on this blood pressure medicine. It can happen, but it is WAY over used as the excuse. It is MUCH more common for you to have a parathyroid problem and just coincidentally be on this very common drug. Be careful here, folks… this is a common mistake made that delays the diagnosis of parathyroid disease in at least 15% of all patients we see. Make sure your doctor doesn’t just “forget” about the high calcium and just blame it on this drug. That is a mistake almost all the time. [ ]


Increased need for/being dependent on drug use

Counter Indicators

Total absence/strong avoidance of drug use

Prescription Drug Side-Effects can lead to



Modest reductions in SHBG levels may be encountered in individuals receiving glucocorticoids such as prednisone.



July 2011. Children whose mothers take Zoloft, Prozac, or similar antidepressants during pregnancy are twice as likely as other children to have a diagnosis of autism or a related disorder, according to a small new study, the first to examine the relationship between antidepressants and autism risk.

Using Kaiser Permanente’s patient database, which includes more than 3.2 million people, Croen and her team identified 298 children with an ASD who were born between 1995 and mid-1999, and matched them with 1,507 children without autism who were roughly the same age and were born in the same hospitals.

The authors then cross-checked whether their mothers, in the year before delivery, filled prescriptions for an SSRI, including Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, and Paxil (or their generic versions). The researchers could not confirm whether the mothers actually took the medication, however.

A larger study needs to be done to confirm this relationship, but based upon this discovery, it would seem wise to avoid antidepressants, if possible, during pregnancy.



A number of non-psychotropic drugs can create psychosis. An estimated 1-2% of interferon users manifest psychosis or suicidal behavior.

Amantadine, a drug for Parkinson’s Disease, can cause hallucinations, depression, jitteriness, and confusion. In anyone experiencing a psychotic episode, recent drug ingestion must be considered as a cause.

Recommendations for Prescription Drug Side-Effects


Conventional Drugs / Information

As with so many things, the benefits of a medication must be balanced against any side effects. Some consequences require that the medication be discontinued.


Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Strongly counter-indicative
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
May have adverse consequences



A drug or medication that can legally be bought without a doctor's prescription being required.


Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with one teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Tinctures may be used singly or in combination as noted. The high doses of single herbs suggested may be best taken as dried extracts (in capsules), although tinctures (60 drops four times per day) and teas (4 to 6 cups per day) may also be used.


Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.


The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.


The body's most abundant mineral. Its primary function is to help build and maintain bones and teeth. Calcium is also important to heart health, nerves, muscles and skin. Calcium helps control blood acid-alkaline balance, plays a role in cell division, muscle growth and iron utilization, activates certain enzymes, and helps transport nutrients through cell membranes. Calcium also forms a cellular cement called ground substance that helps hold cells and tissues together.

Fatty Liver

Accumulation of triglycerides in the liver.


A protein formed by the cells of the immune system in the presence of a virus, etc. It prevents viral reproduction, and is capable of protecting noninfected cells from viral infection. Several kinds of interferon exist including alpha, beta, and gamma.


(Amantadine hydrochloride) Antiviral agent used to prevent or treat influenza; also used to treat Parkinson's disease.


A false or distorted perception of objects or events, including sensations of sight, sound, taste, smell or touch, typically accompanied by a powerful belief in their reality.

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