Paragraph 3 reads: "But although serotonin is essential for good health, it has a darker side. Too much serotonin can cause bizarre behavior, and some people taking these medications might be at risk of life-threatening drug interactions."
THE PEOPLE'S PHARMACY
The Dallas Morning News
July 14, 2000
Author: Joe Greadon, Teresa Graedon, Ph.D; King Features Syndicate
Estimated printed pages: 2
Serotonin has become a household word, thanks to Prozac. Millions of people take this popular antidepressant or related drugs such as Zoloft and Paxil
These medications are known scientificallyas SSRIs: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. They allow serotonin to accumulate between nerve endings. This brain chemical helps to regulate mood and appears to be important for sleep, learning, appetite, sexual behavior
, pain, perception and movement.
But although serotonin is essential for good health, it has a darker side. Too much serotonin can cause bizarre behavior
, and some people taking these medications might be at risk of life-threatening drug interactions.
Serotonin syndrome can cause a range of problems, from anxiety, agitation and muscle twitches to nausea, sweating, confusion, convulsions and even coma. This condition might be triggered by some common combinations. One person wrote:
"As a Prozac user, I had bad reactions to cold medications in the past. I don't know which ingredients caused the negative effects (mental disconnection, dizziness, nausea), so I mostly stayed away from them.
"But after four days of sinus congestion, I tried one Dayquil LiquiCap. I had no problems, so I tried another in the afternoon and a third before bed. My head cold improved, but the next morning I had a horrible reaction.
"I felt disconnected, jittery and confused. I felt like I was going through the motions from a distance, and watching myself do this made me even more nervous. Later I felt dizzy and had to lie down. I also was nauseated and ended up with a terrible headache."
Mixing Prozac and the OTC cough suppressant dextromethorphan could have triggered her problems. A more tragic example:
"My son was taking Xanax, Neurontin and Zoloft for anxiety and depression. On Feb. 4, the physician who was prescribing these also prescribed Imitrex for a headache. On Feb. 9, my son had two strokes, went into a coma and was declared brain-dead. He died Feb. 18.
"I have been told that Imitrex should not have been prescribed for a patient who was taking Zoloft."
This grieving mother is correct. The migraine medicine Imitrex should not be combined with Zoloft, Prozac or similar antidepressants because of serotonin-syndrome risk.
Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of The Dallas Morning News, P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, TX 75265 or e-mail them via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.com
The People's Pharmacy With Joe & Terry Graedon can be heard on KERA-FM (90.1) Saturdays at 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Column: THE PEOPLE'S PHARMACY
Copyright 2000, 2001 The Dallas Morning News
Record Number: 4162991
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