The most sophisticated prescription medicine on the market, all drugs come with side effects. Many are minor, some are just an inconvenience, a few are serious, and some are just plain strange.
Perhaps the most common set of side effects for drugs that work inside your body involves the gastrointestinal system. Nearly any drug can cause nausea or an upset stomach, though it may only happen to a handful of people. For drugs used on the outside, skin irritation is a common complaint.
To find more about a drug’s side effects, look on the label of over-the-counter (OTC) products or on package inserts or printed materials that you get with prescription drugs.
Because the inserts often include a long list of possibilities, you may want to also talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what to expect and watch out for.
Types of Side Effects
An allergic reaction could happen with any drug. That can range from itching and rash all the way to a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.
Some drugs can’t help but trigger side effects because of their chemical structure. The common allergy drug diphenhydramine (also known by the brand name Benadryl) is one.
Though it eases allergy symptoms, it also blocks the chemical acetylcholine, and that leads to drowsiness and a host of other side effects, including dry mouth.
Some drugs have barely noticeable side effects at the right dose. Typically, warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), used to prevent blood clots, usually works well and isn’t bothersome, but serious internal bleeding can happen in the wrong situation.
Side effects may show up only when a drug is mixed with certain other things. This might be called a drug interaction. For example, drinking alcohol while you’re taking narcotic painkillers can cause an accidental overdose.
This has led to many deaths. Another example is grapefruit juice, which can affect the blood levels of several drugs, including some blood pressure and cholesterol medicines.>