(Prescription) Drug

(Prescription) Drug Side-Effects: Overview

Side-effects may occur following the use of certain drugs, as patients respond differently to medications depending on a variety of factors including age, overall health, gender, ethnicity, and the levels of severity of the illness or disease the patient is fighting.

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Side-effects may also occur as a result of taking a certain medication in combination with another drug or substance, whether it is a prescription medication, over-the-counter drug, herbal supplement, or food or drink.  Beginning treatment with a new medication, ceasing treatment, or adjusting a patient's dosage may also cause a patient to experience unwanted reactions to a medication.


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.  [MSNBC, January 2002]

Treatment and Prevention

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.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of (Prescription) Drug Side-Effects:

Lab Values - Cells

(Highly) elevated lymphocyte count or low lymphocyte count

Certain drugs, such as mephenytoin, dilantin and para-aminosalicylic acid, can cause an increased lymphocyte count.

Symptoms - Abdomen

Significant/slight abdominal distension

Certain medications, including those containing lactulose or sorbitol, may cause bloating.

Symptoms - Bowel Movements

Symptoms - Metabolic

Occasionally/regularly/often/always feeling unusually cold

Certain medications – such as those prescribed for hypertension, angina, or migraine – can cause feelings of being cold because beta blockers may reduce the circulation in the extremities while increasing blood circulation to the heart.

Symptoms - Nails

Symptoms - Skin - Conditions

No blood in nipple discharge

Some medications can cause non-bloody nipple discharge.  The most common culprits are cimetidine (for stomach problems), oral contraceptives, some antidepressant and other drugs for psychological problems, and domperidone (for nausea).  Even if you have not noticed any blood, your doctor may ask you to try to squeeze a few drops out, and will test it for microscopic blood.

Symptoms - Sleep

Regular/frequent bizarre dreams

Certain medications can increase vivid dreaming, for example depression medication, sleep medication, and some over-the-counter drugs.

Conditions that suggest (Prescription) Drug Side-Effects:


Poor/Slow Wound Healing

Many medications inhibit wound healing.  Examples include drugs that interfere with clot formation, platelet function, inflammatory responses, or cell proliferation; certain steroids, NSAIDs, chemotherapy drugs.


Dry Mouth

Hundreds of drugs list dry mouth as a possible side-effect.  Antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants are among the drugs that can cause dry mouth.


Yeast / Candida Infection

Steroid hormones, immunosuppressant and anti-inflammatory drugs, ulcer medications or acid blockers used for prolonged periods can all cause yeast overgrowth.

Lab Values

Elevated Bilirubin Levels

Certain medicines can damage the liver.  Examples include many antibiotics, some types of birth control pill (sex hormones), antipsychotic drugs, and many others.


Certain medications such as corticosteroids or lithium carbonate can cause neutrophilia.



Almost all medications list dizziness as a possible side-effect.  Examples include blood pressure medications, sedatives, tranquilizers, antidepressants, pain relievers, some antibiotics.  Diuretics cause dehydration, blood electrolyte changes, heart effects and/or direct side-effects.

Senile Dementia

Drug poisoning can cause senile dementia.


Cluster Headaches

It is believed that there may be a link between cluster headaches and some medications such as nitroglycerin (used to treat heart disease.)


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Risk factors for (Prescription) Drug Side-Effects:

Lab Values - Hormones

Having/having very low melatonin levels or having elevated melatonin levels

Some drugs, including NSAIDs, beta-blockers, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, steroids, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers, can deplete melatonin levels.

Recommendations for (Prescription) Drug Side-Effects:



MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane)

Patients demonstrating drug hypersensitivity to aspirin, several non-steroidal anti-arthritic agents (Naproxen, Indocin, Motrin), and oral antibiotics, became drug-tolerant when MSM was given within an hour of or concurrently with the sensitizing drug.

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Weak or unproven link: may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of
Weak or unproven link:
may be a sign or symptom of; may suggest; may increase risk of
Strong or generally accepted link: is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests
Strong or generally accepted link:
is often a sign or symptom of; often suggests
Moderately useful: often helps with
Moderately useful:
often helps with