graveyard, potassium interaction

Would you take a medicine that listed death as a possible side effect? Lots of people do.

Have You Read the Fine Print?

If you read drug ads in popular magazines, you might end up wondering who would ever beg a doctor for a prescription.

Abilify for Depression:

Abilify is a case in point. This drug was originally approved to treat schizophrenia but is now being advertised aggressively for bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness). One ad promotes the drug for managing mood swings and implies that Abilify might help you “feel more like yourself.”

That sounds appealing, but read on and you learn that elderly dementia patients who take Abilify are at increased risk of death “when compared to patients who are treated with a placebo (sugar pill).”

Not elderly, you say? Another side effect is rare but potentially fatal: neuroleptic malignant syndrome, characterized by “very high fever, rigid muscles, shaking, confusion, sweating, or increased heart rate and blood pressure.”

Abilify can also cause headache, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, constipation, dizziness, restlessness, high blood sugar, seizures, uncontrollable facial movements and suicidal thoughts.

Chantix to Stop Smoking:

Speaking of suicidal thoughts, a widely advertised stop-smoking medicine also comes with such a warning. Chantix commercials feature a tortoise and a hare with the slogan, “It’s all about getting there.” There is a brief mention of side effects including “nausea, trouble sleeping, changes in dreaming, constipation, gas and vomiting.”

You might be willing to risk such a side effect; they all sound like a small price to pay for help quitting smoking. But read the official prescribing information and you will discover that Chantix has been linked to diarrhea, headache, high blood pressure, changes in the sense of taste, nosebleeds, sweating, chest pain, muscle cramps and pain, dizziness, anxiety, irritability and depression.

Does Chantix Trigger Depression and Suicidal Thoughts?

Most people find such a list of side effects overwhelming and tend to stop reading before they reach the end. Such symptoms may seem abstract until someone like Pam shares her story:

“I started taking Chantix three and a half weeks ago. At first I felt great and stopped smoking after the first five days. The vivid, crazy dreams were even kind of fun, but now I am so depressed I can barely get up in the morning… All I want to do is sleep and cry. I thought about killing myself yesterday… The nausea, stomach pain and constipation are so bad it’s been a chore to function. I have never suffered from depression in my life, so I was kind of blind-sided by all this.

“I didn’t associate any of this with Chantix. My mother mentioned that there were some horrible side effects associated with Chantix that she just heard about on the news today.”

Having read similar posts on our Web site, Pam feels relieved to know she is not alone.

The point here is not that Chantix is a bad drug. Smoking puts health at risk, and helping people quit is valuable.

What Should You Do?

All medications have risks, however. Even rare side effects do happen. Whether the medicine is Abilify, Chantix or any other prescribed medication, take a few minutes to read the small print. You might discover that a medication you take to relieve arthritis pain could cause a life-threatening bleeding ulcer or even lead to a heart attack. Without meaning to, your doctor might prescribe a drug that could trigger a potentially fatal heart rhythm disruption.

Being well informed about risks and side effects could save your life. Be sure to check with the prescriber and the pharmacist about possible serious side effects. Don’t stop there, however. Track down the prescribing information online, read it and ask your healthcare provider for help understanding it if you find something alarming.

Revised 11/7/16

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  1. Cindy M. B.
    Seattle, WA

    Now that D. T. has been somehow elected president, I have revised my negative opinion re taking antidepressants, and about death being an acceptable side effect.

  2. Barbara

    I drink 1/3 bottle of Fever Tree Elderflower tonic water, small size, before bedtime. It contains quinine, but probably not a lot. I am thinking of adding some high-content botanicals gin that has juniper. I don’t drink alcohol, but I think I would rather try tonic water for leg cramps and gin with juniper berries for joint pain than take NSAID that can kill me, or other dangerous drugs.

    I also bought some organic juniper berries and am going to grind them in a coffee grinder and perhaps add them to the gin.Anything safe is worth a try. After the outcome of the presidential election, as it seems tonight, Nov. 8., we are all going to have a lot more pain ahead.
    It may work.

  3. Visionaerie
    NW IL

    Our friend took his own life after taking Abilify so you really have to wonder if this is the whole game plan. It is especially regretful when you hear a radio spot by ‘Parents’ magazine advocating pregnant women to take antidepressants! Are they also being paid off? Obviously a lot of money is being made from pharmaceuticals and vaccines, and that is corrupting any legitimate medical research being done. Everyone should do their best to research nutrition and its extraordinary natural healing abilities; if you still need a drug after doing your due diligence there, proceed with caution! The life you save may be your own..

  4. geoff

    Some people seem to be more susceptible to side effects than others hence the stats and 1 in 1000 type claims. OK if you are not susceptible but tough otherwise.
    And there is only on way to find out. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow……..

  5. Steve

    It seems very cruel that a drug prescribed for people who are very nervous and suffer with mental health problems should have sudden death listed as a possible side effect of the medicine they are taking.The chances of this happening are very small but that would be little consolation if it was a member of your family that it happened to.

    Imagine if you read the list, saw it was a listed side effect then gave the medicine to your wife and she then died, how would you feel about that? On the other hand the drug could be a tremendous benefit in the case of someone in deep anguish. For someone who feels they want to take their own life the drug could indeed be a life saver.

    Maybe it gives us a better perspective if we look at everyday other things we do that also carry a risk of death what we would not normally stop to think about.Things like driving a car or crossing the road, flying in an aeroplane, playing sport or perhaps having a drink with friends, having a meal or maybe just walking down the street. When you stop to think about it most everyday activities carry a small risk of death and many are perhaps a higher risk than the prescribed drug.

    To try to avoid every small risk to our lives would perhaps be impossible. A company is required by law to do stringent test of the safety of all drug before they can be used by the public so any risk must be very small and you can be assured the drug is safe within reasonable limits.

    If I was still worried I would ask if there was an alternative drug I could take with less risks and the same benefits. If this was not the case and it looked like the drug in question could be very beneficial then I think it would be relatively safe to take the drug. Often also a doctor will start you with a small dose to begin with so they can monitor if any adverse effect are likely.

  6. Matthew

    I take Abilify and it makes me dizzy and stuff. What I’m worried about is that my dad has dementia; what if I get dementia – will I have to suffer the “coming off” side-effects if I can get off it or will I die by staying on it?!

  7. Lisa

    I find that death is not an acceptable side effect and I would never take a drug that had death as a known side effect when taken as directed. I don’t understand how the FDA allows it.

    Clarksville, TN

    I’m sitting here attempting to read the small letters to this article. I just started taking abilify last Thursday because I am sensitive to all medicines… Abilify replaced Lamictal … I haven’t felt this sick in a very long time.. I’m scared I am going to hurt myself because I’m so outdone with all of the trial and error with so many meds. I mean, what does one do when they are allergic to everything or are hitting every single side effect posted with the medication precautions? My life is deteriorating every second .. I don’t know what to do anymore.. Does any one have any suggestions on how to get past this horrific feeling and sickness, besides the face I need to be off of it.. I concur.

    I feel so alone … I was at 90 now I’m at 20 … That’s a big number on how I’m doing ..

    Any input is appreciated.. :'(

  9. w. louw

    I have been treated for schizofrenia for more than two years with abilify. I now suffer from insomnia, high blood pressure, restlessness, short term memory loss. Recently I have now also been diagnosed with ankylosing spondolytis (muscle stiffness). I wonder if the benefits of not hearing “vague” voices in the mind (which incidentally I am able to live with, with some discomfort), which abilify did help to subdue in the beginning outweigh these terrible side effects.
    I have since stopped the medication and am taking natural medicine (5 HTP) for depression, which seems to help me. I am just happy that I am finally rid of anti-pschycotics, which I feel has been more destructive to me than helpfull, including my creativity, energy levels and overall well-being.

  10. Chris

    Im a successful Chantix user. I think there are multiple factors (including the forced withdrawal of nicotine form the body and resulting detox) that make people feel suicidal when taking Chantix. Anyone who is not ready to quit shouldn’t take the drug.

  11. Ross C.

    Only a fool keeps the idea alive that side-effects are inevitable. There was a time it took companies a long time to get drugs on the market, because authorities made them prove the product was safe and effective. Instead of maintaining that criteria, government has allowed companies to regulate themselves, which just led to corruption and deceit. They are now simply greedy criminals, who are many times guilty of criminal negligence, and in some cases, causing death. I don’t understand how people conclude these companies are doing nothing wrong.

  12. Mindprobe

    I used quinine tablets (260 mg) for years to avoid painful nightly leg cramps which would make me jump out of bed and walk and stretch for several minutes starting about 3:00 am. Needless to say, I lost sleep, was tired during the day, etc. The quinine eliminated these cramps entirely. Then came along the FDA who did a long retrospective study (40 years back) and found the 93 people died from quinine’s effect on a blood disorder of some kind.
    Generic quinine was taken off the pharmacy shelves, and replaced by a high priced version of quinine (used to cost a copay of $5, and later $50. or more). Physicians were loathe to prescribe, so I started on Requip with little effect with increasing doses. Then Baclofen, which was useless. My neurologist gave me some other drugs with large sedation effects and I was afraid for my life driving in rush hour and dying. So I quit that. I still had several bottles of quinine, and started taking it again (I do well with a half a tablet at night). I figure that is only 93 people died in 40 years, with probably thousands or hundreds of thousands taking quinine and surviving, the risk ratio is in my favor.

  13. Ajlouny

    Death is a pretty huge side effect and the answer would be no as far as taking a drug that states that. But, are people really aware of the list of side effects when prescribed medication? I’ve seen it where your doctor blows off the effects and say don’t worry about it and people mostly always trust their doctor’s opinion.

  14. Karen

    When I was prescribed Chantix 2 years ago, I made sure that I asked for any drug interaction information (from my doctor and pharmacist) as I was on Cimbalta at the time. I only took it for one week and knew that I was in trouble so I stopped taking it. After almost a month of being off of it, I had a complete mental and physical breakdown that was similar to a PTSD episode. The pain was unimaginable.
    After 2 years I believe that the drug interaction, or even just the Chantix caused irreversible damage. The severe depression continues and each day is a struggle both physically and emotionally.
    I know that this drug works for some, I had friends that stopped smoking immediately without any effects. But for the damage that it has done to my life and the lives of others, it is just not worth it.

  15. soilder

    I had been taking chantix for about two weeks and i started feeling no emotion or feelings for others i felt as if i was in Iraq all over again I would not recommend this medication to anyone….

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