Stanford Doctor Warns of the Negative Effects of Prescription Drugs

negative effects of prescription drugs

Prescriptions are helpful if used carefully

Prescription medicine can treat life-threatening health conditions and improve quality of life. But we often forget that, if we’re not careful, negative effects of prescription drugs can actually cause health problems – especially for older adults.


Leading Stanford doctor warns of Drug Cascade Syndrome

Dr. Mehrdad Ayati, a leading geriatrician at Stanford Medicine, explains why adding one prescription on top of another can hurt a patient’s health. He talks about how he stopped a vicious cycle and helped a new patient recover from Drug Cascade Syndrome.


Negative effects of automatically adding prescriptions

Dr. Ayati saw a new geriatric patient who wanted help with depression and excessive weight gain. After hearing the man’s story, he realized that the patient was a victim of Drug Cascade Syndrome.

Drug Cascade Syndrome is when new medications are prescribed to solve problems that are actually side effects from the previous drug. Doctors think the side effect is a new problem, so they try to solve it with new medication.

Here’s what happened to Dr. Ayati’s new patient:

  • Originally, he had trouble sleeping. His previous doctor prescribed a sleep aid.
  • Soon, he was exhausted in the mornings. The doctor prescribed a stimulant.
  • Then, the man’s heart was racing. The doctor prescribed a drug to slow down his heart rate.
  • The man got depressed (because the drug to slow heart rate can cause symptoms of depression). So, the doctor prescribed an anti-depressant.
  • After a year, the man’s depression didn’t go away and he started to gain a lot of weight.
  • Finally, the man decided that he needed a new doctor and found Dr. Ayati.


The vicious cycle of Drug Cascade Syndrome

Can you believe it?! This man was having trouble sleeping. One year after trying to get help with that one problem, he was taking four new medications, had depression, and had gained a lot of weight.

Not only was his problem not solved, he now had four additional serious problems to manage.

Even worse, Dr. Ayati says “Drug Cascade Syndrome is a major reason why 4.5 million Americans, mostly people age 65 and older, visit emergency rooms and physician offices each year.”


How to prevent drug cascades

As health advocates for our older adults, we need to help make sure treatments aren’t accidentally making their health worse.

Dr. Ayati recommends:

  • Understanding possible medication side effects.
  • Watching for side effects. If they happen, immediately go back to the same doctor and ask to adjust or change that medication.
  • Staying with the original prescribing doctor. Seeing a new or different doctor increases the chances of drug cascade because they won’t know about the original situation.


Next Step  Read Dr. Ayati’s full article at SFGate


By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Image: bonfire


Dr. Mehrdad Ayati is an assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He practices geriatric medicine and general medicine. Dr. Ayati talks more about Drug Cascade Syndrome and ways to prevent it in his book, “Paths to Healthy Aging.”


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