The adverse effects of drugs

Advancement in medical science has brought a lot of improvement in general health and longevity of people’s lives. Most of the diseases which were incurable before like tuberculosis and cancer, to mention a few, have treatment available.

There is a wide range of medicines available in form of tablets, capsules, injections, ointments, among other various forms, for every possible ailment. But apart from their main therapeutic actions, many drugs produce adverse effects which cause other problems, apart from the sickness.

Adverse effect is a harmful or undesirable effect resulting from a medicine or some intervention like surgery. There are certain medical conditions which can be potentiated by use of a particular drug due to its adverse effects.

Therefore, it is important that one should be aware of the possible adverse effects of any drug taken.

Allergy in the form of skin rashes and itching can occur with any medicine taken. Similarly, diarrhoea or nausea and vomiting, sense of bloating of the stomach can be caused by any tablet or capsule taken.

Pain killers are one of the most commonly used   drugs for muscular-skeletal pains. People tend to buy these themselves whenever they have pain somewhere.  Pain killers of the NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) group cause gastric irritation resulting in nausea, vomiting and burning pain in the chest or stomach. They tend to aggravate pre-existing peptic ulcer disease and bronchial asthma.  They can cause kidney failure when used repeatedly. Aspirin is known to cause bleeding from any site in the body. Narcotic analgesics used for severe pain, cause constipation and visual disturbances as side effects. They are potentially addictive drugs.

Antibiotics   are lifesaving. But some antibiotics like penicillin injections can cause life-threatening allergy reactions. Mostly, antibiotics deplete the useful bacterial flora of the intestines. This results in increased susceptibility to intestinal infections. Antibiotics like gentamycin and streptomycin are toxic to the ear and can result in deafness. Erythromycin and rifampicin can result in liver toxicity.

Many drugs used for allergy and giddiness tend to cause drowsiness. Thus, while providing relief to a person suffering from allergy, these drugs impair working ability.

H2 receptor blockers used for gastritis, spironolactone used for removing extra salt and water, can cause enlargement of male breasts after some time, which is embarrassing.   Erectile dysfunction can occur with antidepressant drugs causing mental agony to the individual. Anti-hypertensive medicines like atenolol can cause sexual impotence over some time.

Many drugs like corticosteroids tend to aggravate hypertension and diabetes. Diabetes is aggravated by drugs like diuretics, which are used to remove extra salt and water from the body.

Gout, a painful condition of the toes, is aggravated by diuretics and anti-cancer drugs. Anti-cancer drugs, while killing the cancer cells, also kill the normal cells of the body causing anaemia, thus reduced immunity — that is impairing the overall resistance of the body.

The list of adverse effects of all drugs is very long and thorough. As there are a number of drugs, there are a number of adverse effects. Any drug taken in injection form will cause the adverse effect to appear faster as the action will be rapid.

There is a false belief prevalent among people that traditional medicines are safe as compared to modern medicine. Traditional medicines, like some kind of herbs, used to result in liver and kidney toxicity.

One should try to remain healthy by means of a healthy lifestyle. Drugs should be taken only if there is a problem that needs to be remedied.

People should be aware that the medicine they are taking can produce some adverse effects. Every drug has product information given by the manufacturing company. Before using the medicine one should try to get all the information about it. Also, try to recognise any adverse effects occurring so that they can be managed immediately.

Dr Rachna Pande,                                                     
Specialist, internal medicine

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