Adverse Drug Reactions and Side Effects

Adverse drug reactions or the less severe ‘side effects’ are unwanted symptoms from medical treatment. All medications, including prescription drugs, have the potential to cause side effects, especially when they are not taken as they should be.

Potential side effects from any drug can range from mild, such as drowsiness or nausea, to severe and life threatening. Serious side effects from medications are rare, but when they do occur they should be taken seriously and you should seek immediate medical help.

The risk of these side effects varies from person to person and you should always consult the leaflet that accompanies your medication for the full list. This should also tell you how common each side effect is from very common (more than 1 in 10 people are affected) to very rare (fewer than 1 in 10,000 people are affected.

Side effects of NSAID drugs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are drugs designed to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and bring down fevers and are often used to treat symptoms of headaches, stomach cramps, muscle pain, colds and flu, arthritis and other chronic pains. Some of these are commonly available over the counter medicines, such as ibuprofen, and others will need a prescription from your GP. Naproxen is one of the most commonly prescribed NSAID.

However, like all medications, NSAIDs do have potential side effects, though the over the counter variety generally have fewer than stronger prescription NSAIDs. These side effects can include indigestion, stomach ulcers (which can cause internal bleeding and anaemia), headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, allergic reactions and in rare cases, problems with the liver, kidneys, or heart and circulation.

Side effects of anti-depressants

Antidepressants are a type of medication used to treat the symptoms of clinical depression, or to prevent it reoccurring. There are many different type of antidepressants with differing potential side effects. The most common side effects are usually mild and should improve within a few days of taking the medication.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are the mostly commonly prescribed types of antidepressants. Although they generally have fewer side effects than other varieties, some common side effects include feeling agitated, nausea, indigestion and stomach cramps, diarrhoea or constipation, loss of appetite, dizziness, insomnia, headaches, or difficulties during sex.

Another rarer but potentially serious side effect linked to SSRIs and SNRIs is serotonin syndrome, where the levels of serotonin in the brain becomes too high. This can lead to confusion, agitation and flu like symptoms.

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are a different type of antidepressant (examples include amitriptaline), and can cause side effects such as a dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, drowsiness, dizziness, weight gain, problems passing urine, excessive sweating and heart rhythm problems.

Side effects from statins

Statins are a group of medicines that help reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. Usually taken for life they come as tablet that should be taken once a day, and like all medications, can cause side effects. The most common side effect is muscle pains and aching joints. Other common side effects which can affect up to 1 in 10 people include nosebleeds, sore throat, runny or blocked nose, headache, nausea, digestive problems, increased blood sugar levels and an increased risk of diabetes. Some uncommon side effects of taking statins that can affect up to 1 in 100 people include vomiting, weight gain or loss, insomnia, peripheral neuropathy, memory problems, blurred vision, tinnitus, hepatitis, pancreatitis, skin problems and feeling weak and tired. The most commonly prescribed statins are simvastatin and atorvastatin.

Side effects of steroids

Corticosteroids, or steroids as they are more commonly known, are anti-inflammatory medications designed to reduce inflammation and supress the immune system and are prescribed to treat a variety of problems. The most commonly prescribed oral steroid is prednisolone. Prolonged treatment in high doses have the potential to cause some side effects. These include weight gain, thinned skin, increased risk of infections, mood swings and depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and withdrawal symptoms caused the suppression of adrenaline glands.