Prescription medications have been making headlines recently, with many common drugs currently facing shortages. Sometimes, however, something other than a supply chain issue makes doctors reluctant to pull out their prescription pads. “The worst thing about being a doctor is having to prescribe medications that really aren’t effective, and have very bad side effects,” Tonny Benjamin, MD, tells Best Life. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved more than 20,000 prescription drugs for marketing, so it stands to reason that not every doctor is a fan of every medication. Read on to read about five popular medications your doctor may be hesitant to prescribe—and why they wish they never had to.
“I always tell people not to waste antibiotics, and to only take them if you really need them,” says Benjamin. “Antibiotics are the only weapons we have against bacterial infections, and they should be used only when necessary.” Antibiotics are definitely a great and invaluable way to snuff out bacterial infections such as strep throat. But doctors don’t want to prescribe them for maladies such as a runny nose or the flu. Not only will antibiotics be unhelpful, but the side effects and possible long-term results can be dangerous.
“Common side effects of antibiotics can include rash, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, or yeast infections,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “More serious side effects include Clostridioides difficile infection (also called C. difficile or C. diff), which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and death.
“The more we use [antibiotics], the more likely it is that bacteria will become resistant to them,” Benjamin warns. “That means once we run out of treatments, people with infections that were once easily cured may die from them.”
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For people suffering from insomnia and related sleep disorders, medication can seem like a beacon of hope. After all, not getting the rest you need is detrimental to your health in a number of ways, both physically and mentally. The idea of a pill that can solve your sleep problems seems too good to be true—probably because it is.
“These medications are often viewed as safe and non-addictive ways to get a good night’s sleep,” notes Benjamin. “However, they can become highly addictive and lead to serious side effects such as confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, and drowsiness while driving,” as well as the risk of serious injury due to falling.
“The dangerous effects of sleep medications range from seizures to depressed breathing,” warn the experts at the Addiction Center. “Some people also experience allergic reactions from sleeping pills that can cause difficulty breathing, chest pain, nausea, and swelling.”
Another medication that can potentially help with sleep disorders, benzodiazepines “work to calm or sedate a person, by raising the level of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain,” explains the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Common benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and clonazepam (Klonopin), among others.”
“These medications are often prescribed for anxiety, sleep problems, and for reducing the symptoms of withdrawal in people who are addicted to opioids,” cautions Benjamin. “They can be extremely effective for these purposes, but they also have a high risk of dependence and addiction.” In addition, some studies have shown that benzodiazepines may increase the risk of dementia.
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“While birth control pills can be very beneficial, they can also cause side effects such as nausea, headaches, and mood changes,” says Benjamin. “Some studies even suggest they may raise your risk of blood clots and stroke.”
“All forms of hormonal birth control can cause a range of side effects,” advises Healthline. “Most are mild and may resolve after the first two or three months of taking the pill.”
While Healthline notes that some of the more serious potential side effects of birth control pills are rare, they do include blood clots, heart attack, stroke, liver cancer, and gallbladder disease. “If you smoke or are over the age of 35, your risk of these more serious side effects increases,” notes the site.
“Antipsychotics are drugs that are used to treat symptoms of psychosis such as delusions (for example, hearing voices), hallucinations, paranoia, or confused thoughts,” according to Drugs.com. “They are used in the treatment of schizophrenia, severe depression, and severe anxiety.” The site adds that antipsychotics can also be used to address some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
But doctors may be reluctant to prescribe antipsychotics because of the range of side effects they can come with. Medical News Today reports that while approximately seven million Americans take antipsychotic drugs, “some studies have suggested that antipsychotics may do more harm than good, especially in the long-term. Some researchers have raised concerns over the toxic effects of these medications, suggesting that patients may only benefit from the medication in the short-term.”
“Antipsychotics can cause numerous dangerous side effects, including weight gain and high blood sugar levels, that can lead to Type 2 diabetes,” says Benjamin. “They can also cause tardive dyskinesia, a condition that causes involuntary movements in the face and body that can last for years after the medication is stopped.”
Of course, all of these medications have their place, and if your doctor is prescribing it to you, there is likely a very good reason for it. If you have questions or concerns about any of the medications you take, discuss them with your healthcare provider. Never stop taking any medication you’ve been prescribed, except under the guidance of your doctor and pharmacist.
Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you’re taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.