Some Medications Scare Me


Dear Pharmacist,
I just became a pharmacist and started reading your syndicated column. Your emphasis is usually centered around the benefits of vitamins, minerals or alternative treatments, as compared to prescription medications.  I take offense sometimes because I think you should recommend more of our gold standard pharmaceuticals which are FDA approved, unlike nutritional supplements. For example, I read your article about depression and you only discussed vitamins and minerals, and never mentioned prescribed antidepressants.   –JK, Gainesville, Florida

Answer: The depression column is entitled “Natural Ways to Ease Depression and Reduce Anxiety” so of course it was not about drugs. It is posted at my website where it continues to be well-received.

I’ve been a pharmacist 22 years, and syndicated columnist for  years, so my perspective is that our gold standards are sometimes rusty!

Listen carefully to me, because your customers’ lives depend on you being educated about natural remedies as well as pharmaceuticals. While you were in school, didn’t your professors make it clear that you can’t lift low levels of folic acid -a common cause for depression- with any of our so-called gold standards.

Didn’t anyone mention that you can’t fix a deficiency of vitamin C, B12 or thyroid hormone with those drugs? All that can cause depression.

Let me teach you something ‘outside the pill.’ Magnesium, vitamin C, B6, folic acid and 5-HTP can enhance mood by sparking production of feel-good hormones such as GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. When taken in natural, physiological dosages these nutrients are well-tolerated.  Typical side effects:  Gas, diarrhea or minor stomach upset.
Our gold standard antidepressants also have side effects. Depending on the drug, your age and medical history, their side effects include:

Agitation, anxiety, blurred vision, red or purple spots on the skin, breast enlargement, anorexia, abdominal cramps, gas, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loose stools or constipation, unusual secretion of milk in women, yawning, trouble walking, dizziness, decreased sexual ability, low libido, impotence, inability to orgasm, abnormal bleeding, nose bleeds, inability to sit still, headaches, increased sweating, insomnia, feeling vertigo (you or your surroundings constantly move), muscle weakness, breast tenderness, unusual or sudden facial movements, strange involuntary postures, fever, flu-like syndrome, hot flushing of the skin, confusion, drowsiness, dry mouth, fatigue, seizures, hyponatremia, tremor, mania, heart palpitations, fast talking or feeling out of control, skin rash, hives, itching, and a dangerous condition called “Serotonin Syndrome” which may include such symptoms as serious blood pressure swings, fever, mood/behavior changes, diarrhea, racing heartbeat, shivering, shaking, racing heartbeat, overactive reflexes, sweating, intravascular coagulation, renal failure, seizures, respiratory failure or coma. There is also a black box warning regarding the higher incidence of suicide among children and adolescents who take these drugs.  Despite all those risks, some people feel safer with our gold standard drugs because they are FDA approved!  

Did You Know?  To avoid pharmacy errors, know the correct name of your drug and have your doctor spell it out for you, clearly and legibly.