When consulting a doctor because of illness or other health concerns, it stands to reason that you follow the doctor’s advice and take whatever medicine you are given. It’s what most of us do. But do you know that many prescribed drugs can do more harm than good to your body?
In fact, prescription drugs are one of the leading causes of death in the world. This might be news for many, but this is reality.
The pharmaceutical industry and prescription drugs have their place in our medically advanced society. It is not possible to treat sickness with a prescribed pill, without dealing with the root cause behind the problem.
This is one reason why prescribed drugs are causing some serious side effects, compelling doctors to prescribe more pills to deal with those side effects.
It is important to carefully analyze the pros and cons of prescription drugs before making a decision of whether to take them.
Here are 10 highly dangerous prescription drugs you should know about.
1. Methotrexate and Other Chemotherapeutic Agents
Another prescribed drug that can be harmful is methotrexate as well as other chemotherapeutic agents.
This drug is used alone or in combination with other medicines to treat different types of cancer, such as breast, head and neck, lung, blood, bone, lymphoma and uterine cancers. Methotrexate is also prescribed by many rheumatologists and other practitioners to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
This drug comes as a solution for intravenous (IV) injection, which needs to be injected into a vein. It is also available as an oral tablet.
The most common side effects of this drug include mouth sores, nausea, fever, dizziness, stomach pain, tiredness, chills and an increased risk of infections.
When taken along with other drugs and for longer durations, methotrexate can cause serious, life-threatening side effects.
These serious side effects include bleeding as well as liver, kidney and bone marrow damage. During such a situation, you may suffer from vomit that contains blood, black tarry stools, unusual vaginal bleeding, yellowing of the skin, urinary problems, blisters on the skin, peeling skin and extreme muscle weakness, to name a few.
Antibiotics are a popular class of prescribed drugs that often restore health and even save lives.
Antibiotics are helpful in treating infections caused by bacteria, such as some forms of bronchitis, pneumonia and urinary tract infections. Antibiotics work by killing the bacteria or stopping them from growing and multiplying.
But overuse as well as misuse of these drugs can cause long-term health problems.
In fact, antibiotics are inappropriately prescribed for conditions that do not even respond to them. Long-term use of such drugs has made many infections more virulent and untreatable.
Some of the most harmful antibiotics that are commonly prescribed are Levaquin (levofloxacin), Vancocin (vancomycin hydrochloride), Bactrim (trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole), Cipro (ciprofloxacin), Avelox (moxifloxacin HCL) and Floxin (ofloxacin).
Many antibiotics cause problems like stomach upset or other gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea.
At times, antibiotics can also cause serious side effects, such as an allergic reaction that causes trouble breathing, hives, and swelling of the tongue and throat. Other severe side effects include tendonitis, seizures, irregular heartbeat or low blood pressure, and leukopenia.
Moreover, while not a direct side effect of antibiotics, antibiotic resistance is another common unintended effect of taking antibiotics.
One of the most common prescribed drug classes is antipsychotics for the treatment of conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe major depression and severe anxiety. However, these drugs can be very harmful to the body.
These drugs affect the action of a number of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters – chemicals which the brain cells need to communicate with each other. The drugs also aid in the control of muscle movements.
Common side effects of antipsychotic medications include blurred vision, dry mouth, drowsiness, muscle spasms or tremors, and weight gain.
Long-term use of such prescribed drugs can increase blood sugar levels, elevate lipid and cholesterol levels, and promote weight gain. At the same time, experts have raised concerns about the long-term neurological and brain damage that can result from taking antipsychotics.
Never stop taking these drugs without consulting your doctor. Your doctor can help you consider different treatment options.
4. Coumadin or Warfarin
Coumadin and the generic version known as warfarin work as anticoagulants (blood thinners), which prevent the formation and migration of blood clots. Blood clots can cause a stroke, heart attack or other serious conditions if they form in your legs or lungs.
Warfarin prevents blood clots by blocking blood-clotting factors that are needed for clots to form.
The most common side effects that occur with warfarin include unexplainable bruises, nosebleeds, bleeding gums and heavier than normal menstrual bleeding.
Warfarin, especially if taken incorrectly, increases your risk of dangerous bleeding as well as other severe side effects that require immediate medical attention. Such side effects include red or brown urine, black stools, severe headaches, extreme joint pain, vomiting of blood and weakness.
Never take this drug without consulting a doctor as many drugs interact with warfarin. These interactions can be dangerous.
The class of drugs known as statins are prescribed to lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) level in the body. They inhibit an enzyme that controls cholesterol production in the liver. This in turn lowers the levels of cholesterol circulating in the blood.
People with high LDL cholesterol are at an increased risk for developing peripheral vascular disease and cardiovascular disease, which in turn can lead to angina, heart attacks or strokes.
Most people are able to take statins without too many side effects. Some of the common side effects include joint and muscle pain, constipation, diarrhea and nausea.
However, taking statins for an extended time or not as directed by a physician can greatly increase your risk of diabetes, liver disease, brain damage, muscle atrophy and even early death.
Some people are at a higher risk of suffering severe side effects. This includes people taking multiple medications to lower cholesterol, women, people with smaller body frames, people age 65 or older, people with kidney or liver disease, and those who drink too much alcohol.
This antidepressant drug alters the mechanism that balances levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Serotonin affects mood, agitation, anxiety and sleep.
This medicine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of major depressive disorder, bulimia nervosa, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
However, this prescribed drug for depression is not only harmful but highly addictive.
Some of the common side effects that occur with taking Prozac include diarrhea, dry mouth, flushing, headaches, increased or decreased appetite, nausea and excessive sweating.
When taken for long durations, Prozac may cause severe side effects that may need professional attention. Such side effects include skin allergic reactions, breathing problems, confusion, changes in vision, palpitations, seizures, mood changes, tremors, trouble sleeping, unusual bleeding or bruising, and unusual weakness.
7. Beta-Blockers & Calcium Channel Blockers
Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are a class of prescribed drugs used to lower blood pressure. They work by blocking the ability of the heart to respond to epinephrine and adrenaline, which stimulate and elevate both the pulse rate and blood pressure.
Similarly, calcium channel blockers work by limiting the amount of calcium or the rate at which calcium flows into the heart muscle and arterial cell walls. They are as effective as angiotens in converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors in reducing blood pressure.
CCBs should always be taken with food or milk. It is important to follow the advice of your doctor regarding when and how much you need to take this medicine.
While these prescribed pills are beneficial in reducing symptoms, they never actually deal with the root cause. Beta-blockers even weaken the heart in order to lower your blood pressure as well as heart pain.
Plus, they have some common side effects including loss of libido, impotence, fatigue and worsening of blood lipids. The dangers of long-term use of beta-blockers include shortness of breath, cold extremities, trouble sleeping, palpitations, congestive heart failure and depression.
Common side effects of calcium channel blockers may include constipation, headaches, palpitations, dizziness, skin rashes, drowsiness, flushing, nausea, and swelling in the feet and lower legs.
However, never stop taking these drugs unless your doctor tells you to. Suddenly stopping the drug can worsen your heart condition, especially if you have heart disease.
Also, it is important to your doctor right away if you experience sudden weight gain, breathing difficulties (shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing), hives and severe lightheadedness or fainting.
8. Prednisone or Cortisone
These prescribed medicines are used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma, ulcerative colitis, anemia, allergies, lupus, psoriasis and many other skin conditions. Cortisone helps decrease inflammation and immune responses. It is also used as replacement therapy for certain hormones.
Doctors often prescribe these medicines for not more than two weeks.
Some of the common side effects of prednisone or cortisone include confusion, restlessness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, acne, heavy sweating and trouble sleeping. These mild side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks.
However, when these medicines are taken in excess, you can suffer from serious side effects, such as hives, swelling in the body, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, peptic ulcer, pancreatitis and convulsions, to name a few.
9. Proton Pump Inhibitors
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are prescribed to alleviate symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition marked by acid in the stomach leaking back into the esophagus and causing damage.
These drugs are also used for the prevention and treatment of acid-related conditions like stomach ulcers, NSAID-associated ulcers and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome.
PPIs work by blocking nutrient absorption and inhibiting the production of necessary stomach acid, which can cause a host of other health problems.
Nevertheless, these drugs are generally well tolerated and cause mild side effects, such as headaches, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, flatulence, fever, vomiting, nausea and rashes.
But high doses and long-term use (one year or longer) may increase the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures of the hip, wrist or spine. Prolonged use also increases risk of bacterial diarrhea, magnesium deficiency, pneumonia and unhealthy weight gain.
10. Opioid Pain Relievers
Opioid-based painkillers are also prescribed drugs that are extremely harmful to the body.
Some of the common opioid-based painkillers are Vicodin (hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen), OxyContin (oxycodone HCI), Percocet (oxycodone and acetaminophen), codeine and morphine.
These drugs are highly effective in relieving acute severe pain, but they are only moderately effective in treating long-term chronic pain, and their effectiveness can diminish over time.
Opioids can also be addictive and are prone to abuse and misuse. They can easily result in addiction. The more you use opioids, the higher your tolerance and the more you need to feel the same effects.
It is common to experience physical withdrawal symptoms after quitting the drug suddenly. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, sweating, insomnia, tremors, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and extreme mental and physical discomfort.
Long-term opioid use has serious health consequences, impacting multiple organs. It can impair the brain’s production of natural painkillers and dopamine, the brain’s “feel-good” chemical.