Published March 22, 2008
I had a staph infection and was in the hospital. Upon release, I was prescribed an antibiotic and then another. My pharmacist warned me not to stop taking the drug, but it made me terribly sick, so I quit taking it. Tell me honestly, what happens when antibiotics are stopped early and please don’t place fear in people if we don’t want to take artificial drug.
W.R., Silver Springs, Florida
ANSWER: Your medication made you “terribly sick,” and I’m sure most of you reading this have shared the experience, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to stopping pills. Because medications have individual ‘personalities,’ you’ll need to call both your doctor and pharmacist to ask if you should wean off slowly or just suddenly stop the drug in question. This does matter and it makes the difference between feeling well, or having a seizure!
With antibiotics, stopping abruptly isn’t dangerous, but it could bring on a new infection. In your case, a staph infection could morph into a life-threatening version called MRSA (pronounced “mersa.”) and that’s why your pharmacist advised you to take the complete course of the drug.
I don’t advocate pill-popping, in fact, I find the big commercial push for medications rather annoying. I prefer natural methods for healing, and the sensible use of medications at very low doses when needed. So even though I don’t mean to “place fear” in people, I inevitably will because stopping some drugs in a hurry is just plain dangerous.
Here is a partial list of meds that should NEVER be stopped abruptly:
- Pain pills: Vicodin or Lortab (hydrocodone), Oxycontin, Ultram (tramadol) and Duragesic (fentanyl) all have to be weaned very slowly. Stopping suddenly can cause DTs (Delirium tremens), a serious withdrawal reaction. Never cut patches or break tablets in half because this could be lethal with some pain meds, especially long acting formulas. Call your doctor for specific instructions.
- Sleeping pills: Ambien (zolpidem), Sonata, Lunesta and Restoril (temazepam) and Klonopin (clonazepam). Most sleepers are physically addictive, so they must be taken nightly. Rozerem (ramelteon) is the exception to this rule and is not addictive. Neither are over-the-counter Sominex and Nytol.
- Anti-Seizure Drugs: These meds are also used for nerve pain and include Neurontin (gabapentin), Dilantin (phenytoin), Lamictal, Tegretol (carbamazepine) and Lyrica.
- Steroids: Used for allergies, pain and arthritis including methylprednisolone and prednisolone
- Antidepressants: Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Wellbutrin, Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro, Effexor
- Blood Pressure Meds: Hundreds of meds in this class, and they should all be slowly weaned. Stopping suddenly could dangerously spike your blood pressure.
- ADHD Drugs: Drugs for attention deficit such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), Concerta, Adderall, etc.
The following meds MAY be stopped abruptly if necessary:
- Bone builders like Fosamax, Actonel, etc.
- Arthritis drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, Celebrex or Mobic (meloxicam)
- Cholesterol drugs in the statin class (Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, lovastatin)
- Sex pills like Cialis, Viagra and Levitra
- Aspirin used to thin the blood
Did You Know?
The herb astragalus may be able to ease hot flashes, night sweats and chronic mild diarrhea.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.