Side effects

I am a grocery store label reader.  When it comes to what I ingest, I am very fussy.  I try not to take any meds and only when desperate, I take an antihistamine or ibuprofen.  Apparently however, I am not jaded enough.  Recently a student asked me why a stroke patient was being given Benadryl.  I could not think of any protocol except that sometimes it is given to calm agitation.  I promised to look for an answer.  After checking my normal sources and finding nothing I widened my search.  Still finding nothing I searched Benadryl and stroke.  I found an article from Harvard Medical School published in the Harvard Health Publications, written by Beverly Merz on January 28, 2015.  In this article she states, “When the researchers examined the use of anticholinergic drugs, they found that people who used these drugs were more likely to have developed dementia.”  I never thought that an over the counter hay fever medicine could have such a devastating effect on my long term health.  I googled Benadryl and dementia and found a mountain of evidence that this is a known fact.

Anticholinergic drugs block the action of acetylcholine, which transmits messages in the nervous system across the nerve synapse.  In the brain acetylcholine is involved in learning, memory and REM sleep.  It also stimulates muscle contraction.  Anticholinergic drugs include antihistamines, over active bladder medications and tricyclic antidepressants.  Indiana School of Medicine researchers found that anticholinergic drugs lowered glucose metabolism and reduced brain size.  The brain is the greatest consumer of glucose in the body.

The brain releases histamines as an inflammatory response.  Histamine is a neurotransmitter.  The histamine system in the brain controls the general states of metabolism, consciousness and memory.  A report by Wei-Wei Hu and Zhong Chen from the Ministry of Health in China published February 10, 2012, demonstrates that the release of histamines alleviates neuronal damage and infarcted volume promoting the recovery of neurological function after ischemia.  “Considerable evidence shows that histamine has a protective effect on neurological injury after cerebral ischemia.”  Based on this report that demonstrates the protection of histamines released in the brain against cerebral ischemia, or stroke, consider what would happen if today at 3pm someone took an antihistamine for hay fever.  Then at 9pm they took another and when they got up in the morning they took it again.  At 11 am they have a stroke.  They will have more damage from the stroke because the release of histamines has been suppressed by the antihistamines.

I began to question ibuprofen.  That has to be harmless, right?  No!  Long term use of ibuprofen increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.  Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen may cause ulcers, bleeding or holes in the stomach or intestine.  Long term use of acetaminophen, isoniazid, propylthiourcil (for thyroid) or amoxicillin can cause severe liver damage or liver failure.

It is time that we demand safe medications.  If it is over the counter we should be able to feel safe taking them.  I should not have to risk dementia or forfeit REM sleep because I have hay fever.  If I get hurt and don’t want to take opium drugs for pain I should not have to risk a heart attack or liver failure.  Enough!  Stop killing us with side effects!

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