Most people don’t realize that very popular Over-the-Counter (OTC) drugs, and some Prescription (Rx) drugs, as well, can have side effects that not only affect your body, but also your brain.
And it may not be a side effect you notice quickly. You might start on a new drug (Rx or OTC) and after several weeks, or even months, you realize you’re depressed, or suffering some other assumed “psychiatric” problem. In many cases, it may not be anything wrong with YOU, it’s the new medicine you started taking those weeks or months before.
Such side effects can occur at almost any dosage level, but the greater the amount of the drug taken, the greater the risk, usually.
Commonly-Used Drugs that Can Cause Such Problems:
Naproxen for Pain Relief. Naproxen is sold under the brand names Aleve, Naprosyn and others. It’s very popular because it doesn’t cause as much stomach upset as other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc), cause.
However, Naproxen affects the central nervous system in ways that other NSAIDs do not. Some people who take Naproxen every day — for chronic arthritis for example — have reported drowsiness, reduced concentration and/or depression. We’ve also read, and known people, who reported problems with short-term memory when using Naproxen.
What to do: Experts advise watching your mood when taking naproxen, as well as watching for any other problems, like poor concentration, memory issues, or depression. If such problems occur, talk to your health care provider about it.
Beta– Blockers — Blood Pressure Rx Drugs, such as Propranolol (Inderal), and Sotalol (Betapace), work by blocking the effects of epinephrine (adrenaline) thus slowing the heart rate. But slowing the heart’s action can lead to fatigue and depression. And since these drugs affect different body systems, including the brain, they have also been reported to cause mania and other mood problems in some people.
What to do: Do NOT stop taking these drugs if you notice any such problems — they are usually prescribed for serious problems such as high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias, so NEVER stop taking them without consulting your doctor. You may be able to switch to a different drug (possibly a calcium channel blocker) for high blood pressure. But if you must take a beta-blocker, experts advise you use non-drug methods to improve your energy and mood. Exercise regularly, use positive thinking and get enough sunlight. (Sunlight is used by the body to produce Vitamin D, and low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to Depression.)
Guaifenesin — Cold Remedies like Robitussin and Mucinex. Guaifenesin is one of the most common ingredients in OTC decongestants such as Robitussin and Mucinex (check the labels of other such products for Guaifenesin). As an expectorant this ingredient thins mucus, making it easier to cough it up. However, it has wide-ranging effects on the central nervous system in some people which can lead to fatigue and/or depression. When and if combined with other ingredients such as pseudoephedrine (a common decongestant), side effects can also include anxiety.
What to do: Experts say for most people drinking water helps to thin mucus about as well as a pharmaceutical expectorant so when you’re stuffed up, drink a few more glasses of water — or tea or juice — than you usually drink during your typical day.
Allergy Drugs such as Non-sedating Antihistamines. Just because it says Non-Sedating on the label it may still be sedating, just not as sedating as older antihistamines like Benadryl may be. Drugs such as Loratadine (Claritin) or Cetirizine (Zyrtec-D, Zyrtec-D 12 Hour, Wal-Zyr, etc), are reported to cause drowsiness and depression in some people.
Antihistamines have anticholinergic effects (caused by blocking a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system). Some people experience no side effects from this, but others notice that they’re agitated or confused. And these drugs also may lead to depression or concentration problems in some people.
What to do: Experts say since unwanted sedation is the most common problem, try taking antihistamines at bedtime. Since allergy symptoms may be worse in the morning anyway, it may make you feel better when you wake up if you take them when you go to bed, as well. You could also try breaking the pill in half (if it is NOT a timed-release pill, if it is timed-release, do NOT break it in half) — many people get satisfactory relief with fewer side effects when they take a lower dose, by taking only half a pill.
H-2 Blockers — Heartburn Medications such as Cimetidine (Tagamet) and Ranitidine (Zantac) have been reported to cause depression, confusion, and even hallucinations, in some people. Ironically this seems to result from the lower stomach acidity these meds cause, and are meant to cause. Additional problems that can result in people taking them every day are absorbing smaller amounts of folate and other nutrients — which can lead to mood problems.
What to do: Experts say most people can eliminate heartburn without potent drugs by not eating within a few hours of bedtime, and avoiding “triggers” like chocolate or alcohol. If you need more, try an occasional OTC, such as Mylanta or Maalox.