When most physicians prescribe medications, they may not realize they could be in danger of violating the Hippocratic principle to first do no harm. That’s because virtually every drug has the potential to cause adverse reactions for some patients.

Many prescribers believe that the benefits of the medicine outweigh the risks. Even when there are complications from the treatment, doctors expect symptoms to disappear after the drug is discontinued.

That’s not always the case. There are some medications that can cause irreversible harm. Patients must be warned of that possibility in advance, even if the likelihood is low.

One disturbing irreversible drug reaction is called tardive dyskinesia. This uncontrollable movement disorder can result from treatment with antipsychotic medications such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), haloperidol (Haldol) or thioridazine (Mellaril). Even newer medicines such as risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify) can trigger this reaction. An old drug sometimes prescribed for digestive problems, metoclopramide (Reglan), is also capable of causing the disorder.

Physicians initially dismissed the facial, lip and tongue movements, torso jerks and finger taps of tardive dyskinesia as “inconsequential, not drug-related, and certainly rare” (Annual Review of Medicine, Feb. 1975). Now, no one doubts the connection with the medications, especially if they are administered for a long time or at high doses.

Tardive dyskinesia is hardly inconsequential from the patient’s point of view. One reader reported: “I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on a mood stabilizer. The psychiatrist indicated that adding Abilify would be helpful.

“I began to pace and was unable to sit still. I literally walked the halls for three days straight. I was desperate for relief and…needed to be hospitalized.

“The symptoms persisted long after the medication was taken away. I also had uncontrollable movements with my tongue and slurred speech. None of these side effects were discussed with me [beforehand].”

Stopping antipsychotic drugs suddenly can sometimes set off an uncomfortable withdrawal syndrome, so coming off such medicines should be done only under medical supervision.

Tardive dyskinesia is not the only potentially irreversible side effect that worries us. Cholesterol-lowering medicines such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor) may sometimes lead to permanent muscle damage. A study in the journal Current Opinion in Rheumatology (Nov., 2013) reports on an autoimmune condition called necrotizing myopathy. For susceptible individuals, taking a statin turns the immune system against muscle tissue, resulting in muscle destruction that may not be repairable.

Fluoroquinolone antibiotics (ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, etc) can cause tendon rupture and long-lasting nerve damage. The prostate medicine finasteride sometimes used to treat male pattern baldness has been reported to cause long lasting sexual side effects (Journal of Sexual Medicine, Nov. 2012).

When drugs can cause such serious and persistent problems, patients must be informed in advance. If they know what symptoms to watch for, they may be able to stop the medication before lasting damage is done.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. litha
    Eastern Cape

    My son can’t walk, he is not steady since Tuesday, doctors, he had a painfull forehead on Sunday then high temperature later that day. Later on Monday I took him to a GP prescribed ponstan and Dilinct, I gave both before we went to bed, in the morning I was talking to him before going to work he looked fine. I was called by my brother telling me that he can’t walk, went home and tried to give him something to eat thinking that maybe he will be better, he started vomiting. I took him back to the GP he prescribed something to stop vomiting and 2 other medicines that I could not give because he was not keeping anything in. I rushed him to hospitality later that day still vomiting and unable to and I thought maybe he is nauseous because he is vomiting. Since then he has on drip while Doctors are trying ti find out what is the problem, after scan and tests they found that he has viral meningitis,they put him on antibiotics but they do not know why he is not sitting and walking I am frustrated,depressed because no one knows the reason if anyone can help or advise

  2. Jay
    San Diego, CA, USA

    I am experiencing several of the stated, potential side effects of Ciprofloxacin, fatigue, aching in joints and muscles, mild lightheadedness, head aches, and they became more intense this morning. I discontinued the medication with only one dose left, and wonder how long before the side-effects subside.

  3. Mary
    Green Valley Az

    Taking primidone for 2 years then the ringing in my ears started. Had to stop taking the drug. It has been a week. Ringing is almost constant. Sometimes the volume goes down. It is torturing me. Help. I just want it to go away.

  4. Carol
    Decatur, In

    I was prescribed Onglyza (5 mg) in June, 2015, (for type2 diabetes) I developed a cough that would not go away and very sore and aching joints, especially in my shoulders, arms and wrists. Then I developed a severe rash on my chest, finally calling my doctor and giving the information stating that I could no longer take the medication.. It has been 6 months and I still have the aching joints that keep me awake at night..will it ever go away?

  5. sue
    Nashville. tn.

    I recently had knee surgery I was put on mylexocan an inflammatory drug about 3 weeks of taking it my hands and feet swelled. I went to the emergency room the swelling was so bad I couldn’t get my rings off. They had to cut them off after blood work and other tests said it was a reaction to the medicine. Put me on a diuretic. Didnt help, went to my regular Dr. also said reaction put me on lasix. After a week and no change she did more blood work put me. on prednisone worked but from results of my blood work sent me to a dr for RA tested negative but positive for lupus. I was surprised because other than the swelling and stiffness which cane back after, I was off the prednisone. I dont have any other symptoms of lupus. He did more bloodwork still, not sure what I have. I still wonder if it was a reaction; I’ve been off the myloxican a month and a half.

    • Jay pies
      Summit south dakota.

      Hi did your symptoms go away… in time I had swelling of knee and burning like skin 4 weeks now after stopping mobic.

  6. J.J

    I just recently had an episode of dizziness so went to my doc put me on stemsil to stop the dizziness but failed to mention the side effects you can get from them and lo and behold I’ve got side effects… I took them for three days will this side effect ever go away??

  7. R.F.

    I took 5 mg of Abilify for 7 years off label to help with anxiety/depression. I was also taking Prozac Weekly. On my own, I discontinued the Abilify cold turkey because I was tired of some of the side effects I’d had for years, including flat affect and weight gain.
    Within 2 weeks of discontinuing the Abilify, I developed extremely bothersome facial “tics” which included opening my eyes real wide, pulling my right lower lip down at the corner, head movements, and, with a vengeance, flexing my neck on the sides and back using large shoulder muscle straining, the latter causing me very painful muscle aches all day and evening until I could finally lie down in bed at night.
    My Psychiatrist who had prescribed the Abilify said it probably held the ticks at bay for the 7 years I was on it. I don’t quite know what “tics” he’s talking about! He blamed it on OCD. (I have generalized anxiety disorder.) I therefore went to a Neurologist who specializes in tics. He put me on Lamictal and added Klonopin, neither of which helped. We discontinued Klonopin and tried Botox injections in my shoulder muscles, which did nothing, either.
    He finally started me on Xenazine in December 2013, a medication for patients with Huntington’s Chorea. The medication, even though approved by the FDA, is still closely monitored by the Federal Government. Miracle of miracles, after titrating up the Xenaxine, I finally, after 1 1/2 years, have relief from my tics! They’re not completely gone but I can live with the very few I have. My Neurologist feels like either the Abilify caused the tics in the first place or the discontinuation of Abilify brought them on. (Abilify can cause tardive dyskinesia.) Whatever happened, I am so relieved to be on Xenaxine.

  8. fbl

    Over two years ago I took a blood thinner for about a month after cardiac ablation and it resulted in excruciating pain in my calves and thighs. I stopped it but the destruction wasn’t done. My muscles wasted away. My family Dr. was able to do acupuncture which stopped the wasting and brought some muscles back. I still have pain in these muscles though but not as bad.
    The other thing Xarelto did to me was cause severe diarrhea. Two different prescription drugs, one from my OBGYN (after cervical cancer) and one from my family Dr. did not work. I finally found that Immodium and Pepto Bismo together would slow it down and often stop it.
    I read about Metamucil on this site and tried it. Wow! It really helps. Now my daily regimen is to take the Metamucil in the morning with a probiotic (the brands I tried made no difference but the Primal Defense from Gardens of Life works) and another probiotiic in the afternoon. I can eat veggies now but sometimes I’ll still have a problem, but not as often.
    I thank you folks for providing this site to educate us and make our lives more livable!

  9. Sherry

    Unfortunately , and I can only speak for the Fluoroquinolones, it may only take one pill or one ear or eye drop to do irreparable damage so the fact that you stop it when you feel the onset of a symptom may not decrease your chances of getting any better. It also could takes days, weeks and months to even develop any of the ADRs affiliated with this group of antibiotics. Best to stay away from them altogether! Believe me, I am a living example of 17 years of major health issues due to Floxin and Cipro. Doctors just shake their heads and think I am nuts. They love their Fluoroquinolone drugs.

  10. NLF

    About 10 years ago my mother was prescribed Risperdal to manage bipolar illness, along with other medications she had been taking for several years.
    She developed a “pill rolling tremor” in her hands, slurred speech, a shuffling gait, and anxiety that seemed to be getting worse every few days. During this time I just happened to attend a lecture about Parkinson’s Disease given by a nurse affiliated with a regional Parkinson’s center, and mentioned to her that my mother showed some of the same symptoms mentioned in the lecture. She strongly encouraged me to get my mother evaluated right away.
    A few days later my mother expressed suicidal thoughts, so out of desperation, I reached out to the nurse and she helped to get my mother in for an evaluation by a neurologist in the Parkinson’s clinic just a few days later. It was very tricky to try to explain this to my mother due to her horrible anxiety, depression and manic behavior.
    My mother did not have Parkinson’s but showed similar symptoms because the Risperdal blocked the dopamine in her brain, as it does in some patients, the doctor explained. As my mom’s anxiety and physical symptoms worsened, her psychiatrist continued to increase her dosage of Risperdal a total of 6 different times!
    The neurologist consulted with her psychiatrist and she was weaned off the Risperdal, resulting in a disappearance of the symptoms. My mother’s life was likely saved. Be persistent…ask questions….don’t be afraid to follow a hunch!

  11. Cara

    I bitterly laugh at the oath the doctors take. They consistently do harm, sometimes physical harm and sometimes mental harm. It’s a sad joke on their patients.

    • Monique

      Doctors are trained to get payed to treat you and, do surgery.

  12. Donnie

    My mother-in-law, and an uncle were given drugs that caused them to have tardive dyskinesia for the rest of their lives. Worse yet, neither one of them should have ever been given Thorazine, because they were not psychotic. They both had physical diseases that were not being properly treated, but since they were seniors, they were prescribed all kinds of expensive drugs whether they needed them or not.
    The elderly are cash cows for the medical establishment. Sad, but all too true.

  13. O.G.

    After recent, and extremely unpleasant, experiences with the side, and lingering, effects of prescription drugs and anesthesia, I am convinced of the need for better information and warnings for human patients before they agree to use pharmaceuticals of any kind.
    But how about the effects of these drugs in veterinary use? I’ll bet there’s not a pet adopter out there among fans of The People’s Pharmacy who hasn’t given courses of antibiotics to furry family members, and Metaclopramide us certainly a familiar name in drugs for pets, too. What happens in their (much smaller) bodies with prescription drugs? What can we do to help them as well as ourselves?
    I’d love to listen to a PP program on the topic: now I’m not only concerned about myself and my human relatives, but about the other residents of the house, too.

  14. Angela

    I’m convinced that Effexor stays in your system forever. I haven’t taken it in over ten years, but I still get occasional lightning flashes in my head.

  15. paulbyr

    I wonder when there will be a lawyer specialty for suing the medical community for FAILING to adequately notify patients of these prescription caused side effects. By now, the doctors should know the side effects.
    I guess the Supreme Court will have to tell big Pharma that the little print listing that passes for warning on the pill boxes is inadequate for the average customer. I hope they will include the importers of overseas bad generics while they’re at it.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.