Not so Rare Side Effects of Medication

Not So Rare Side Effects of Medication

If experiencing rare side effects of medication could negate any potential benefit, how “rare” would that side effect need to be for you to take it? What if your decisions to take medications are not as informed as you’d like to believe? I’ve spent many years working with people who’ve entrusted medical professionals to steer them in a direction that they’d hoped would help or heal their suffering. Too many of these people are left feeling betrayed by a medical establishment that easily passes off faulty expectations about drug efficacy without giving informed warnings about the potential risks and side effects of medication.

Common Or Rare Side Effects of Medication

Side Effects of Medication are classified by the (WHO) World Health Organization and indicate specifically the range in the number of people who could experience a given side effect. These categories span from very common, 1 out of 10 people or more, are likely to experience the side effect, to the very rare category with the expected number to be fewer than 1 in 10,000. For a full list of the categories visit: MedShadow Foundation.

Common Side Effects of Medication

According to Medical News Today, a site that includes lots of links with approval check marks indicating that the facts are coming from Government Authorities or other “experts”, some common examples of mild adverse effects related to commonly taken drugs include:

“Rare” and Serious Side Effects of Medication

It is suggested that the most serious side effects are statistically unlikely. “In most cases, the risk of serious side effects is very rare — much less than 1% of the time,” says Dr. Joshua Gagne, a pharmacist, and epidemiologist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This quote was found in the summary of “5 Common Medications That Can Have Serious Side Effects”.

Warnings about common, rare, and severe side effects of medication are listed on the fact sheets that come with your prescription. It’s a requirement. You know, that insert that gets recycled almost immediately. Then there’s the Black Box Warning or just “Boxed Warnings” to alert prescribers of the potential of the medication to cause life-threatening or other serious adverse effects. The proceeding link contains a list of just some of the top boxed warnings, listed by drug class, and a few pharmaceutical examples.

Black Boxed Warning
Serious Side Effects of Medication

Akathisia, Increased Risks of Suicidality: A few personal comments about boxed warnings for these side effects of medication.

SSRIs commonly prescribed, such as Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Paroxetine (Paxil) as well as SNRIs like Venlafaxine Effexor are all antidepressants with the warning of “increased risk of suicidal ideation”. This symptom caused by these and other antidepressants is one of many that are brought on by the condition Akathisia. In 20+ years of working with people addressing their healing, I have worked closely with at least five people who have suffered or continue to suffer from this reaction. None of them were “younger patients ‘. The Boxed warning states that antidepressant usage for children and adolescents may increase the risk of suicidality. It does not carry this same warning for adults.

As I write this, I remember their stories, their suffering, and the outrage I feel around the grave negligence with which their care was managed. I’ve worked with several hundred people over the years. Let’s over-inflate it to 1000. Five out of 1,000 experiencing this life-altering, potentially fatal reaction is uncommon, but not rare.

Last night, a survivor of Akathisia sent me this news. A Massachusetts woman, on a cocktail of prescription drugs including several listed on the above list for ‘Top Boxed Warnings’ killed her three children and nearly herself. Tragic endings are often dismissed as an organic byproduct of the underlying dysfunction of the individual, while the culpability is diverted from the medications, prescribers, and pharmaceutical companies.

Those I’ve known to have this reaction were coping with varying degrees of depression, but were not suicidal until the introduction of the antidepressants.

“Rare” Serious Side Effects of Medication: Life-Threatening Skin Reactions

Other serious side effects of medications with Boxed Warnings are Life-threatening skin reactions such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome, DRESS syndrome, and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). It’s listed as a potential adverse reaction to Sodium Blockers. Sadly, this is also an adverse reaction to some very commonly prescribed antibiotics, anticonvulsants, and generic painkillers including Aleve.

Side Effects of Medication
Life Threatening Skin Reactions

Several years ago, I had a friend whose smile was like sunshine. She was a survivor of many things and lived with Lupus since she was a teenager. Toward the end of her short life, she was on dialysis and experienced an infection at the port for the tubing. The antibiotic she was prescribed caused blisters all over her body, her skin peeled off and she was in terrible pain. She could hardly tolerate the light sheet that covered her body. We couldn’t touch her to console her and she wanted to die. She did lose her battle with Lupus a few weeks later, two weeks after her 40th birthday.

A Benefit to Risk Assessment

Consciously or unconsciously we are weighing the potential benefits or desired results of a given action or decision against its potential undesired effects or risks. In the case of medication or medical procedures, you may entrust your medical provider to have the information, expertise, or wisdom to know what may or may NOT be worth the individual risk to you. What is tolerable or worthwhile to you may be very different from what it is for me. It’s not all about crunched numbers.

For this reason, age, diagnosis or symptoms alone cannot give your prescriber all that is needed for them to know if a medication is right for you. Nor is this enough information to know if you are at particularly high risk for side effects of medication.

Healthcare Indoctrinated by a Money-Making Medical Model Has Contributed to an Over-Reliance on Medications

We’ve been sold on the need to medicate the human experience.  Our emotional makeup and physical bodies are seen as broken if they are not continually in some unrealistic state of functioning. There are more pharmaceutical options than ever before. Relatively healthy individuals are pathologized and told they have conditions with buzzword acronyms. The go-to treatment… drugs.

Generally, we hope and expect that medical practitioners will not advise taking medication or engaging in a medical intervention or preventative action, invasive screening, or yet another vaccine if doing so could potentially cause more harm than its anticipated benefit. Let’s just say that most doctors are well-intended. If their recommendations are based on numbers, or facts that are falsely represented or all the data is not in, then their ability to safely advise or prescribe to you has been compromised.

A pill box used to be reserved for people who were elderly and needed confirmation that they’d taken or not taken their multivitamin and stool softener that day. Today, almost 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription medication a day. Some people have been on the same medication for so long that they no longer know why it was initially prescribed. A former client of mine was prescribed Prozac when she was 16 after having survived numerous traumatic childhood events and reported feeling depressed. When I asked her how she felt when she wasn’t taking it she said she’d never been off of it. She was 44 at the time.

Teasing out the root causes of her many physical and emotional issues was complex and confounded at best. She had no non-medicated baseline to compare it to. Were side effects of medication causing her myriad of symptoms or were they part of her existing makeup?

When they were created, antidepressants were not meant to be used for extended periods of time. In general, antidepressants are intended for use approximately nine months following a depressive episode, and a maximum of two years of overall use.

Alternative To Meds Center

Many people have come to believe that antidepressants do more harm than good. Ultimately, taking any medication is a personal choice that may help some to cope until other supports, skills, or healing practices are established. Passively making people lifelong consumers of psycho-pharmaceuticals is not honoring their needs nor valuing them as people.

Value People in What You Prescribe
Side Effects of Medication Vs Side Effects of  Time Spent Connecting w  Others and w Nature

Even the “Experts” Can be Duped

Some prescribers are still oversimplifying the science, overprescribing medication, and not considering the whole human being before making limited recommendations based on a limited knowledge set. There are tried and true alternatives to medications that have few to no side effects. The use of garlic regulates blood pressure, improves immunity and cholesterol, and ginger root eases heartburn, inflammation, and nausea. However, when it comes to mental health and treatment there is no one quick fix. Lifestyle changes in diet, exercise, and sleep are helpful. Authentic connection with others and self-acceptance of any emotions, thoughts, or experiences will do more for healing, than any prescription or positive thinking approach. True healing is not a 2-4 week fix.

The Jig is Up!

A Decisive Blow to the Serotonin Hypothesis of Depression

Article in Psychology Today

It’s important to recognize that the credibility or trustworthiness of any given source, governing agency, or institution should be discerned through your life lens and a broader look at the information and data available. There are plenty of examples of experts making claims that a given food, drug, or substance was safe only later to have those same entities rescind their claims.

Pharmaceutical Marketing Inflates the Potential Benefits and Downplays the Risk of Side Effects of Medication.

Conflicts of Interest and Questionable Ethics

The world’s biggest drug maker was slapped with huge fines by the U.S. government after being deemed a repeat offender in pitching drugs to patients and doctors for unapproved uses.

Pfizer to pay 2.3 Billion, Agrees to Criminal Plea.

Informed consent is not informed when the information, data, or “science” is skewed or misrepresented for an agenda or profit. The bottom line, you may not be making a true benefit to risk assessment if the ‘facts’ are simply not factual.

Pharmaceutical companies have their own agenda

Questioning the ethics or integrity of big pharma is hardly a stretch. It’s not like they have a long history of being wholesome non-profits; being of service working for the public good. Instead, there is a long history of generally shady practices; drug pushing and promoting, reaping exorbitant profits while having little to no accountability for harm done to regular people.

Just over 20 years ago, the first FDA warning to Purdue Pharma regarding its sales efforts and advertisements about Oxycontin was given. There was a time not so long ago when all the trusted “experts” were telling the public based on Pharma studies that oxy was non-addictive. It didn’t even need a Boxed Warning. Prescription Opioid Lawsuit Guide (2023)

Should individuals, politicians, governing entities, and educational institutions be in question for their association with pharmaceutical companies? At the very least, it makes sense to ask questions and engage in some critical thinking.

The Governing Agencies Recommendations and Facts About Side Effects of Medication

So what about checks and balances? Time and again those designated to protect and guide are later found to reap personal gain at the expense of the vulnerable and gullible. When it comes to the approval and or regulation of drugs the FDA has notoriously had employees sacrifice ethics in favor of personal gain.

Science has discovered that 11 of 16 FDA medical examiners who worked on 28 drug approvals and then left the agency for new jobs are now employed by or consult for the companies they recently regulated.

Science “FDA’s revolving door: Companies often hire agency staffers who managed their successful drug reviews” 2018

Side Effects of Medication are Reported Over Time. Claims of Safe and Effective Are Based on Reported Data

The FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) is a database that contains information on adverse events and medication error reports submitted to FDA.

AERS has significant limitations. Quite notably:

Underreporting; FDA does not get most reports of adverse events that occur in the United States. Estimates suggest that FDA receives reports of about 1 to 10 percent of the adverse events that occur.

Access Data FDA.GOV

It seems to me, it is awfully hard to evaluate data that has never been collected!

My daughter glances over my shoulder as I’m writing this article. She and I often have different views when it comes to being consumers of traditional medicine. She’s more open to it and I am not. Reading the earlier part about my friend, our friend, who suffered at the end of her life she remembered our loss. She asked, “Do you want me to add my experience?”

I will not add her story here, but simply state, I’ve heard dozens of personal testimony of dismissed side effects. The concerns and reported experiences of young people, those with diagnosed mental illness, and people with low income are often disregarded.

Data Collection Confounded
Side Effects of Medication Underreported

Data unreported means connections are not being made. Claims of safe and effective are not based on the actual number of people experiencing side effects of medication.

Weighing up the benefits and risks of medicine is a complex process since it involves the evaluation of a large amount of data. In addition, there is always some uncertainty around the actual benefits and risks of medicine, because they can only be determined by looking at the information that is available at a given point in time.

European Medicines Agency

Many people are taking an unnecessary risk for what is in many cases, minimal benefit.

Side Effects of Medication: The Role of Habituation in What We Come to Believe

Football season has come to a close and so will my television viewing until next September. I’ll miss watching football on Sundays, but I’ll be relieved to have a hiatus from the onslaught of pharmaceutical commercials. One commercial, I really won’t miss. After praising its benefits including the added benefit of helping you lose some weight, it lists the usual common uncomfortable irksome side effects of medication followed by the potentially more serious, shocking, and disgusting ones.

The last part of the commercial states “…. genital yeast and urinary tract infections can occur in men and women. A rare life-threatening infection in the skin of the perineum could occur.” After 4 or more of the same commercials between quarters, I feel slimed.

A desensitized population no longer feels alarmed by hearing about even the most heinous possible reactions. After all, they are very rare! We learn to ignore or tune out the annoyances. Belief in an inflated expectation of medication efficacy, and the minimization or dismissal of any potential harm or risk has created more consumers for pharma than well people. (The Power of Belief: How Healthcare Harms 101).

What to Consider Before Agreeing to Medication

  • Side effects of medication are gravely underreported.
  • Some medications are more harmful than helpful.
  • There are people who are treating all kinds of ailments with medications successfully and there are many people being poisoned by the very things they hope will make them well.
  • Side effects of medication, including, severe adverse reactions are more common than drug makers and prescribers will lead you to believe.
  • If there is a choice to be made, you are better off choosing a natural remedy over a synthetic one.
  • There are many alternatives to medications that your healthcare professional may not know of.

You are the expert of you. Learn to tune into your inner and higher guidance and you will be better equipped at making decisions that will heal and not harm you. Check out: Use Higher Knowledge: A Rare Credible Source for other reading. Please visit my Coaching Services page if you want more information or supportive coaching.

I wish you healing and empowerment as your focus shifts toward acting as your own expert and authority when it comes to healthcare choices.

Estelle Bonaceto
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2 thoughts on “Not So Rare Side Effects of Medication

  1. Estelle, I so appreciate your thoughtful essay about the risks and benefits of modern medicine, particularly around certain categories of medications. The data is often buried in documents that never see the light of day. Why would pharmaceutical companies want the consumer to know the truth? They are far more concerned with their profit margin than the patients they serve. Doctors are often not fully informed and choose to follow the trends. Am I biased? Yes, I am, although I try and read everything I can from many sources, to be better informed. The lack of informed consent remains a real problem in our society. How many lives are lost, either by death or damaged bodies and/or nervous systems before the medical authorities agree to make some changes?

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments Jennie. I believe change will come as individuals ask more questions on behalf of themselves and others. When people begin to say ‘No’ to care that is not meeting their needs nor honoring their quality of life, they’ll be fewer consumers of those services. As we shift toward empowered choices for alternatives that work and practitioners committed to healing as opposed to profit, the medical establishment will either have to catch up or fizzle out. I know you are well versed on this subject so I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

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