You’re probably mindful of side effects — stomach aches, headaches, lethargy — that pop up in the first days or weeks after beginning a new medication. However, you might not realize drugs can actually cause new side effects months or years after starting a regimen, even if your body initially tolerated the medication quite well.
Whether you abruptly develop issues from an antibiotic you’ve been on and off for years, or an unconscious lifestyle factor is influencing your existing narcotic regimen, here’s what you need to know about your changing tolerance to medication.
The Factors That Spur New Side Effects
There are a number of factors that impact whether you’ll develop new side effects, including ebbs and flows in your body’s basic biology, explained Albert Ahn, an internal medicine physician at NYU Langone Health.
“The way you metabolize a drug can simply change over time, ” he said. “For instance, you could tolerate amoxicillin well for years, and then suddenly develop bad belly issues while taking it later on.”
According to Jen Wolfe, a senior care pharmacist in the Washington, D.C ., region, this particular shift can be chalked up to age.
“Your metabolism decreases over hour, meaning your body doesn’t get rid of it as fast, leaving higher concentrations of medication in the bloodstream, ” Wolfe said, which increases the likelihood of developing side effects.
Your metabolism lessenings overtime, entailing your body doesn’t get rid of it as fast, leaving higher concentrations of medication in the blood stream. Jen Wolfe, senior care pharmacist
Wolfe added that any change in your liver or kidney function — for instance, a condition like diabetes can decrease kidney function — will cause drugs to be metabolized slower, increasing the side-effect risk.
Lifestyle or physical alters can also affect the odds of developing side effects. Wolfe said a change in body fat may increase the likelihood of a drug reaction down the road. “Some narcotics are lipid-soluble and may concentrate in fatty tissues, such as some anti-anxiety meds, entailing you need a lower dose to avoid side effects, ” she said.
How much you’re drinking, and what you’re drinking( i.e ., alcohol ), is another concern.
“Some narcotics have the side effect of increasing the amount of salt your body retains, like prednisone, ” Wolfe explained. “You need to stay well-hydrated to keep that side effect at bay … In addition, many meds are metabolized by the liver, just like alcohol is. Alcohol can increase the side effects of certain drugs, because the liver will metabolize it before the drug, leaving you with a higher concentration of drug in the body.”
Alcohol can increase the side effects of certain medications, because the liver will metabolize it before the medication, leaving you with a higher concentration of medication in the body. Wolfe
Changes in your diet can also affect how your body processes a drug, according to Wolfe.
“The acidity of your belly will determine how well certain narcotics are absorbed, ” she explained. “So, even doing something as simple as starting to skip breakfast, but continuing to take a medication in the morning, could increase or lessen the amount of medication absorbed by the stomach — depending on the type of medication you are taking.”
And be wary of those multivitamins. According to Ahn, people often think of dietary supplements as innocuous, but they too can have a major impact on how you process your pills.
“When we go over medication list, a lot of patients forget to list the supplements they’re taking, ” he explained. “Many people think they can’t interact with drugs, but they can.”
When you’re asked to list the medications you’re taking at the doctor’s office, make sure you let your doctor know about medications, supplements and over-the-counter drugs you take regularly. Don’t start anything new if you’re unsure how the substance may interact with existing medications.