Prednisone (and similar corticosteroids) can be a life saving drug. It saved my sanity when I developed sudden hearing loss in one ear. That was a really scary experience for someone who depends on hearing to be able to do live radio.

The ear, nose and throat specialist diagnosed my deafness as “idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss.” In other words, he didn’t have a clue what caused it. He did prescribe high doses of prednisone and within a few days my hearing returned.

Similar corticosteroids like Prednisone include

  • Cortisone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Methylprednisolone
  • Prednisolone

There are many conditions for which such drugs can be extremely valuable, even life saving. Here are just a few:

  • Very serious allergic reactions (bad poison ivy for example)
  • Anaphylactic shock (life-threatening allergic reaction)
  • Brain tumors
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease)
  • Severe asthma (usually to help control acute flare-ups)
  • Severe nausea of chemotherapy
  • High altitude sickness (when there is brain swelling)
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Addison’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Giant cell arteritis

As useful as corticosteroids can be for a wide range of conditions, the drugs can also cause an extraordinary number of serious side effects. Some people have likened this to a deal with the devil. Even short-term use can cause problems.

My personal experience with Prednisone

The week or two that I took prednisone for my hearing loss I couldn’t sleep, became incredibly irritable and hard to live with, and felt as if I had turned into someone I didn’t know or like. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry analyzed data from hundreds of thousands of European patients over an 18 year period.

They discovered that people taking corticosteroids were more likely to experience neuropsychiatric symptoms including depression, suicidal thoughts (and actions), delirium, disorientation, confusion, panic and manic episodes.

The authors conclude that: “Glucocorticoids [another term for corticosteroids] increase the risk of suicidal behavior and neuropsychiatric disorders. Educating patients and their families about these adverse events and increasing primary care physicians’ awareness about their occurrence should facilitate early monitoring.”

I can relate. I certainly felt disoriented and out of control on the relatively high dose I was taking. The trouble is that patients and their families are not always warned about such side effects.

Scary Prednisone side effects that have been reported to us

“Years ago I was given prednisone in the emergency room for a severe anaphylactic reaction that affected my ability to breathe and caused massive hives. Although the treatment may have been necessary, I too had a severe psychotic reaction and when I finally went to my own doctor and had blood tests, my blood chemistry was all over the map. I had to continue the tapered dose till I was done but I wish someone had warned me of possible side effects so at least I wouldn’t think I was totally crazy.

“I questioned my ability to drive, slept constantly, and was quite volatile. I had to take a day off from work. Knowledge is power! People should be warned about possible side effects so they have the information should side effects occur.”


“I was on 20mg twice a day of prednisone for a sinus infection. Had I known anything about this horrible drug I would have never taken the meds and let my sinus infection clear up on its own. That would have been better than these side effects.
“I was not told to taper the dose, so I took as prescribed 20mg twice daily for 7 days. The day after stopping my whole body hurt to the touch, as if I was black and blue all over. I was swollen, red and had a lump on my neck, not to mention being very disoriented. I went back to the doctor and he insisted this had nothing to do with the drug.
“I checked myself into the ER where they put an IV drip with benadryl and the like. I was discharged that day. No change. Next day, didn’t hurt to the touch anymore. New side effect – rash from head to toe and severe indigestion. Following day, rash subsiding, indigestion getting better. Still feeling a bit loopy, but I am told by next week I should be back to myself again.
“I am warning everyone i know not to ever take a steroid unless your life is in danger. It is a very scary feeling – all for a sinus infection.”

“I’m having Prednisone side effects. My doctor prescribed this drug last Thursday. She prescribed 20mg twice daily for five days. I was sleepless for three days in row. On day 4 after a short nap I awake feeling so nervous. I am crying, my hands are shaking, and my heart is beating so hard. These are awful feelings.
“My doctor told me I will feel that way for about nine days. She didn’t show any care about me. She also said I can go back to work (and drive a long way) the next day. But the way I was and am feeling I’m not daring to drive even one block.
“I do not understand why she prescribed that medicine, without any warning, for a small allergy I had. I mean the medicine was worse than my illness.”

“My wife had sleepless nights when on prednisone and the doctor said that she might do some odd things that she normally wouldn’t do. He was right. One night she got up and tore down the wall paper in our bathroom :-) We still get a laugh over this one.”
-Bob K.

“I am experiencing high blood pressure, agoraphobia, panic attacks, light headedness, confusion, weakness, intolerance to heat, IBS, shaking, etc. These side effects all started the day I stopped the drug. It has been 7 days with not much improvement. I was hospitalized for 3 days. I pray I do not EVER have to take prednisone again… EVER.
“I am hoping I get past this. My quality of life stinks. I took 30mg 1 day 20mg 2 days and 1 mg 2 days. Absolutely HATE this.”

These are just some of the messages that have been posted to our website. Feel free to add your story or comment below. We find it astonishing that some prescribers do not warn patients about the possibility of psychological side effects brought on by prednisone and friends. Even a short-course of high-dose steroid can precipitate symptoms. And not warning about gradual tapering borders on bad medicine. To protect yourself and your loved ones from such medical mistakes we suggest our latest book, Top Screw-ups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

We want to emphasize that corticosteroids can be very valuable. Some people must take them for the rest of their lives because of a very serious or life-threatening condition. And NO ONE should ever stop taking a drug like prednisone suddenly. It must be phased off gradually under medical supervision.

Other side effects associated with corticosteroids like Prednisone

  • Fluid retention, edema
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability, nervousness, mood swings, mania, depression, psychosis
  • Disorientation, confusion
  • Hypertension
  • Loss of potassium
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, vertigo
  • Muscle weakness
  • Blood sugar elevation (diabetes)
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Swollen face
  • Hair growth (including on the face)
  • Itching, rash, hives
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Weakened bones (osteopenia, osteoporosis)
  • Tendon rupture
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Ulcers

The higher the dose and the longer someone takes a drug like prednisone the more likely there will be side effects. Make sure your physician is monitoring things like potassium, blood sugar, bone density and psychological well being. And never stop a corticosteroid suddenly!

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  1. Chris
    Phoenix, Arizona

    Prednisone had a real and almost immediate benefit for me. Plagued with a painful and itchy psoriasis, prednisone alleviated the itching and there was a diminishment in the lesions within about a week. Concurrently, I had a bronchitis which was restricting my breathing and making me wheeze. This too eased and cleared up with use of the steroid. Opposite of nervousness described in the side effects, an anxiety due to the breathing problem cleared up with taking the drug. My doctor seems leery and afraid of prescribing the drug but my experience was better with no undesirable side effect.

  2. Rosemary

    I had eye surgery two months ago. I been using Prednisolone Acetate 1.0% drops since then. I’ve been feeling depressed every morning which makes it very difficult for me to start my day. When checking potential side effects of the drops depression is listed as rare. It was not until checking this site that I’m convinced my sadness is attributed to the drops. This is a high price to pay for an anti-inflammatory drop.

  3. Ruben

    I am having an MRI with Gadolinium contrast tomorrow. I had a very slight allergic reaction to the contrast during my last MRI, ie., itchy face, tingling lips. I have been prescribed 50 mg Prednisone at 13, 7, and 1 hour(s) prior to the MRI. Also, 50 mg Benadryl 1 hour prior.

    I think this is a CYA move on the doctor’s part, and not in my best interest. There was no information given to me regarding side effects, nor any mention of tapering. Unless someone comments here with strong information as to why this protocol is absolutely necessary, I will choose not to take the Prednisone, and only take the Benedryl.

  4. Joan
    Hamilton, NJ

    Joe Graedon,

    I appreciate you creating this support site for all of us that have been prescribed prednisone. It’s been 4 months I’ve been on prednisone ranging from 80mg in January 2015 to date I am at 15. I have been dealing with mental and physical effects through the entire time. SO MUCH ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION!!! Can’t keep a positive thought in my head before the anxiety comes creeping back in. Do you have any advice you could offer? Family and friends don’t understand and why should expect them too if they have never experienced the “devil’s drug. Any advice you could give would be appreciated. Thank!

    Joan L.

  5. Joan
    Hamilton, NJ

    I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO LAUGH AGAIN LIKE BEFORE!!! I have been in prednisone for nearly 4 months now and it’s really taken a toll on my mental well being and physical well being and I don’t know how to get back!!! Started on 80mg the end of January for an newly diagnosed auto-immune disease affecting my kidneys. My doctor tapered a little drastically from 80 to 60 the first month and then I ended up in the hospital for a month with various conditions, i.e., steroid induced diabetes and then a few days on the psyc floor and then on another floor for dehydration. Don’t really remember getting down to 30mg but I was sent to a rehab because I had trouble walking and although at the time I was depressed and anxious I do remember them giving me 30mg. Home from the rehab middle of April and over the last few weeks have tapered from 30 to 25 then 20 and now I am at 15mg. Just wish I could get past this stupor- feeling/depression and anxiety!!
    PLEASE HELP, can anyone give me some suggestions on how you handled this and got through it? THANK YOU for any feedback!

  6. Hope
    Atlanta, GA

    I, too, wished I had known how this drug – which was prescribed to me for a sinus infection – would affect me. Unfortunately, I had just began a wonderful cruise vacation and had a sudden onset of shakiness, sweating and dizziness, accompanied by extreme anxiety and uncontrollable suicidal ideations. They took me by wheelchair to the ship’s doctor, who had no idea what was wrong with me. It was the scariest couple of hours of my life, and had there been a hospital or psychiatric facility nearby, I would have been admitted for fear I was going insane. Instead I had a few Xanax with me, given to me by my doctor in case of a panic attack during flying, and the ship’s doctor had me put a tablet under my tongue. Gratefully, the absolute terror subsided within an hour and I was able to rest that day and enjoy the remaining week of my cruise without incident. This is a very dangerous drug, and I am shocked that it is so freely prescribed.

  7. Jerome

    All your posts on prednisone are negative. Your scaring people off who can benefit from this drug. Prednisone has been a wonder drug for many, many more people than have suffered side effects. Talk more about the good things that prednisone can accomplish.

    • Chris

      Agree, Jerome. Even my doctor is leery of this drug that has been so very beneficial to me including being able to rest well at night due to ease of breathing. I experienced no problems from taking this steroid. Unexpected side effects were beneficial.

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