All drug has side effects, no exception. They range in intensity from the mild down to the very serious. There are also many different factors that affect which side effects manifest and to which extent they manifest. These factors can be classified into three: drug-related, patient-related, or environmentally-related side effects. Although managing drug side effects depends on the severity in each individual, it is common to stop taking the drug and immediately consult with your caregiver to report what happened.
Certain individual or group of individuals has a higher risk of developing side effects than others. The most obvious factor is in age. The very old and the very young are more prone to drug interactions.
Older people, generally, have a lot of medication they are taking which makes them more prone to drug-drug interaction. Also, their bodies tend to have lesser fat and water content which increases the duration in which the drug stays in their system. Liver and kidney function, the sites where most drugs are metabolized and excreted, are also decreased in older people.
Children, on the other hand, have vastly different absorption and metabolism rate than in adults. This means their bodies have a harder time either breaking down drugs and removing them from their bodies. Liver enzymes in infants and young children are also immature which lessens the rate at which medicines are broken down.
Other risks factor that makes an individual susceptible to drug side effects include genetics, kidney function, and gender.
The dosage of the drug affects the onset of side effects as well as the severity. The higher the dosage, the more risk there is for an individual to develop side effects. The formulation of the drug may also play a role. Orally prepared drugs have a lower risk of side effects than those injected directly into the muscle or into the veins of a patient.
External factors may also affect drug to drug interaction in many patients. The presence of alcohol can dramatically increase or decrease the absorption rate of certain medication. It can also enhance the side effects like confusion, blurred vision, blood pressure, and respiration. Smoking is also a known factor that affects whether or not a person develops side effects. The diet may also have an effect as certain food types interact with certain medications.
Side effects and their management
- An allergic reaction is the number one most common side effects which are usually governed by a person’s genetics. It could happen with any medication without any warning. Signs could range from a mild rash to anaphylactic shock resulting in swelling in the mouth, nose, and throat of people, restricting their airways. Managing an allergic reaction involves taking antihistamine, orally or through injection, and consulting with a doctor immediately. If the reaction is caused by the drug, then it is imperative that it should be stopped immediately. People with known drug allergy are recommended to wear medical alert tags to inform others of the drug they are allergic to.
- Constipation is also another common drug reaction. This is common in people taking diuretics, antidepressants, opioids, and iron supplements. When constipation happens, it is very rare that it leads to an emergency situation. Management involves increasing fluid and fiber intake. Exercise is also another way to improve bowel movement. For severe cases, doctors often prescribe patients with methylnaltrexone or naloxegol.
- In certain medication, diarrhea may occur. This is common with antibiotics, antidepressants, antacids with magnesium, and chemotherapy drugs. When this happens, it is important that patients inform their doctor as soon as possible. If it is caused by antibiotics, doctors may prescribe patients with probiotics. In other cases, an antidiarrheal medication is sufficient in resolving the problem. Reducing the dose might also help with this as well as keeping fluid intake up to avoid dehydration.
- Certain drugs like benzodiazepines, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and antihistamines cause people to feel drowsy than normal. While normally not a cause for concern, it is important for people taking such medications to avoid driving or doing any activity that requires full focus and attention. Talking with your doctor to lower the dosage may help with the drowsiness. Drinking alcohol with these medicines can intensify the side effects, making a person all the more sleepy.
- Indigestion happens when a substance or drug irritates the lining of the stomach common for people taking aspirin, iron, and steroids. GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) happens when the sphincter, the muscle the keeps the stomach closed, relaxes due to certain medication causing the stomach acid to rise up and irritate the esophagus. When this happens, reducing the dosage of the medication is the common approach. Making sure the head is well elevated during sleep also helps. Avoiding food that irritates the stomach like alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or fatty food can also prevent this side effect from happening, or at least control its severity.
- A few people experience headache as a side effect. This is common for those taking asthma medication, heart medications for angina, and blood pressure medications. Women taking oral contraceptive may experience headache as well. When the headache is confirmed to be caused by the drug, doctors may prescribe alternative medication or they may reduce the dosage if the headache is too severe. For certain drugs, taking painkillers is also an option, although this must be discussed with the care provider first. Alternative ways to relieve medication-induced headache include heat, massage therapy, and acupressure.
The side effects listed above are only the common ones that many people experience. The full list is long, with almost every kind of drug known to have its own associated side effects. Managing these side-effects usually, involve simple measures up to taking the patient to the emergency room. The two most important takeaway is one, telling your doctor if you are feeling unwell after taking the medication in order for them to rectify the problem. And two, ceasing intake of the drug if it is established that it’s causing the side effects.
This is Guest Blog by Eliza Brooks. She is a passionate blogger who loves to write about innovative ideas on promoting mental and physical health. She is currently working with TheGreenAce, one of the best online weed dispensary Canada, which offers legal, safe access to high-quality Medicinal Marijuana.