Beware of Adverse Reactions With Prescription Drugs

Beware of Adverse Reactions With Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs can be a blessing if used properly but misuse of these medications is a huge problem in America.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adverse drug events, or ADE, cause 1.3 million emergency department visits each year. Over 350,000 patients annually need to be hospitalized for treatment after landing in the E.R. for ADE’s.

Older adults are seven times more likely to be hospitalized for drug mishaps because they usually take more prescription medication than younger people and should be closely monitored, says Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D., author The Natural Medicine Chest.

“These adverse drug reactions account for a whopping 106,000 deaths a year, at a cost of $12 billion,” she says.  A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that one in four patients suffered side effects from prescription medications, and 13% suffered serious reactions such as internal bleeding or low blood pressure.

According to WebMD, 55% of Americans take prescription medication regularly, and also take, on the average, four over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and other dietary supplements. Among those who take prescription drugs, 53% get them from more than one healthcare provider.

Statistics show that the average older adult takes four or more prescription drugs each day but a whopping 39% of seniors take five or more prescription medications daily. This is called “polypharmacy” and can be deadly.

“Considering you are at risk of adverse drug events if you take two or more medications — and an extremely increased risk if you take four or more — many Americans are putting their health at risk on a daily basis,” says Kamhi.

Kamhi says that fueling the rise are significant jumps in prescriptions to treat type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, blood pressure, cholesterol, heartburn, and acid reflux — drugs normally associated with adults.

Adverse reactions can also occur by mixing prescription drugs with other drugs you may be taking, says Dr. David Newman-Toker, Ph.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence.

“Make sure your doctor knows every drug, herb, or supplement you are taking,” he says. “This helps keep records up to date and can prevent negative interaction between medications. Also reveal any allergies you have. Make sure that you can read the prescription and double check with the pharmacist to ensure that the treatment is correct.”

Kamhi says that the root of the problem is that prescription drugs have been over prescribed for conditions that could be treated safely and sanely with lifestyle modifications.

“Ideally, the best way to reduce your risk of having an adverse reaction to a drug is to limit your exposure in the first place,” she says. “This is something that can — and should — be done as a matter of course throughout your life.”

Here are some tips on reducing the need for unnecessary prescription drugs. Always check with your healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or medication.

  • *Eat plenty of health-promoting fresh and raw foods. Always limit processed foods and sugar in your diet, says Kamhi. Choose locally grown ingredients whenever possible.  Include monounsaturated fats which are found in avocados, olive oil and nuts, and omega-3 fats found in fish. 
  • Make sure that you get enough sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep nightly. 
  • Manage stress. Calm your mind by using deep breathing and meditation techniques. Stress adversely affects your immune system.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise is a proven way to keep both your mind and body healthy, says Kamhi, the author of Arthritis, an Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide.

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