The Risk of Psychiatric Drugs

Heartburn and ulcer drugs that belong to the category of proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs), such as Prilosec (omeprazole), Zegerid (omeprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), Aciphex (rabeprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole), and other can cause serious nutritional deficiencies, such as that of vitamin B12, magnesium, vitamin D, calcium, and other. This has led the FDA to issue warnings about the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening magnesium deficiency (which also causes severe headaches) as well as increased risk of bone fractures. Many of these drugs are available without a prescription and many people take it for long periods of time without realizing that they can cause serious side effects.

The FDA has also issued many warnings about psychiatric drugs, mostly about their ability to increase the risk of suicide and other side effects. Unfortunately, the FDA has not issued any warnings about a much more common side effect. Many doctors (psychiatrists, internists, family doctors, neurologists, and other specialists) often prescribe psychiatric drugs indiscriminately for minor anxiety, depression, attention deficit, and other conditions and they prescribe them for dangerously long periods of time. One in five Americans takes at least one psychotropic drug, according to the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/prescribing.aspx). It is very likely that many were prescribed these drugs unnecessarily because many of these milder psychological symptoms resolve on their own with passage of time or can be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy. But once someone starts taking such drug it is very difficult to stop. Anatomy of an Epidemic, is a highly researched book by Robert Whitaker which describes some of the reasons why people stay on these drugs for years. (http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2011/01/whitaker-psychiatry-epidemic) The main reason is that the brain gets used to the effect of the drug and when it is stopped all of the original symptoms become much worse and additional symptoms of drug withdrawal develop. One of the common side effects of drug withdrawal is headache and sharp pains in the head. This is particularly common due to withdrawal from Effexor (venlafaxin), but many drugs, such as Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Lexapro (escitalopram), Cymbalta (duloxetine), Ativan (lorazepam), and other also can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, including headaches. It is possible to get off these drugs, but it has to be done slowly and under doctor’s supervision. If headache is one of the withdrawal symptoms, Migralex is a good choice to treat these headaches.