Q. After my doctor put me on the andidepressant Effexor, I did things I would never have done otherwise. I spent our life savings and thousands of dollars more on crazy things. We can’t sell them to get our money back. I made my wife’s life a living hell through all this. Since I am nearing retirement age, I don’t have years of earning power to make this money back.
Could the drug be responsible? If so, shouldn’t there be a warning? I wouldn’t listen to anyone while I was on Effexor and I have destroyed our hopes, dreams and security.
A. We are sorry to learn of your predicament. There are reports that people taking newer-generation antidepressants such as Effexor may experience manic episodes. This reaction appears to be uncommon but might manifest itself in the kind of spending you describe.
People who suffer from bipolar disorder (previously called manic-depression) can experience extraordinary mood swings. During the manic phase, people often feel euphoric or energetic and may spend uncontrollably. The prescribing information for Effexor suggests that the drug may cause manic reactions and should “be used cautiously in patients with a history of mania.”
Q. I have been on blood pressure medicines for years. At first atenolol and enalapril worked very well. But now my doctor has prescribed Norvasc because my blood pressure is over 150/96. I find I am dizzy, lethargic and weak. My ankles are frequently swollen and I get headaches.
My blood pressure started rising after I injured my back. Could the ibuprofen I use for pain relief affect my blood pressure?
A. There are concerns that pain relievers like ibuprofen, indomethacin, aspirin or even newer drugs like Vioxx and Celebrex might reduce the effectiveness of some blood pressure pills, including ACE inhibitors such as enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) or ramipril (Altace). Beta blockers like atenolol (Tenormin), propranolol (Inderal) or metoprolol (Toprol XL) may be also be affected by some arthritis drugs or pain relievers.
We are sending you our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment with information on drug interactions, alternative treatments and common side effects. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (60 cents), self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. B-67, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.
Some of your symptoms, like swollen ankles, dizziness and headaches, could be side effects of your medicine. Please discuss them with your doctor.
Q. What can you tell me about lip care for whistlers? I’ve whistled from childhood on. I can’t sing but I’m a great whistler.
I became sun-sensitive as an adult and suffered a number of blistering sunburns to my lower lip. Finally a dermatologist recommended a sunscreen stick, which protects me from burning. But whistling with this product in place affects my ability to pucker. It feels like playing the piano with thick gloves.
Unless I practice every day, I lose the very high register. What else might I use as sun protection?
A. Burt’s Bees Lifeguard’s Choice Lip Balm contains titanium dioxide and has an SPF of 8. It should allow you to pucker with protection.
Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm has an SPF of 25. Coppertone, Banana Boat and other sunscreen manufacturers also make protective lip products. You will need to experiment to find one that blocks the sun while allowing you to whistle.

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