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Date of last update: 9/5/2017.

Forum Name: Pharmacy & Drug Topics

Question: Sensitivity (not allergy) to medications

 girlwhoasksalot - Sat Sep 22, 2007 1:04 pm

Thanks to anyone who can answer this...
I am a healthy ( i think? lol) 30 year old female.
My question long as i can remember...I've been very sensitive to ANY medications that cause a change in my mental status...for instace..this will not happen with Advil or asprin or any medicine that has no effect on my brain..but...i just can't take normal adult or even HALF doses of any medicines such as anywhere from anxity anxity meds (eg. xanax) pain meds or muscle relaxers, or EVEN and especially cold medicines or allergy medicines...anti histamines etc...i can barely tolerate alcohol and never drink..if i do i'd be drunk and feel very out of controll off only one drink...i am so sensitive that i ccan feel the alcohol within 1 min of drinking a alcoholic beverage....also..certain herbs i can't ginsing or even's almost as if i am extra sensitive to these sort of things...i am NOT a crazy person..i am pretty normal...why does this happen to me? I remember once i took a normal size dose of excedrin pm..and i had a SEVERE even what i think was life thretening reaction to felt as if my whole body started tingling and i was paralyzed for hours and couldn't move to call a doctor ot anything..i was paralyzed till i passed out and after i woke up the next day it seemed i have SEVERE problems with vision (lights) etc...iit took me YEARS to get oveer that..of course that was the worst reaction i ever had..and i don't ever take any medicines that effect me since then...(1993) if i have a SEVERE cold...i will take advil cold medicine for kids..and take half a dose a kid would take..and even if i continue that over time it almost feels like it builds up...
ANyway...i am just curious why am i so sensitive to medicines like this....i don't break out in rashes so i don't think i'm allergic..its just some sort of mental or brain sensitvity...i can't even eat too much dark chocolate or it effects me...
If i tell this to people they think i am crazy and it's all in my head just because they don't experience this..but i am not anyone could help explain this it'd hel...also..i think my grandmother may have had it because she never ever took any medicines and never drank, also she was a bit of a nervous wreck always running here and there i think she may have been sensitive to things maybe she had the same may or may not be related..but i am also sometimes sensitive to sounds and..i have extra sensitive hearing and sense of smell...
Thanks again
 Debbie Miller, RN - Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:06 am

User avatar Hi Girlwho....

As frustrating as this is for you, it does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong at all. Each person is unique and the way they handle drugs varies immensely. You will notice when side effects are listed for medications, almost every possible response has been reported by at least one person in the study so the list is huge - for almost ANY medication.

Understanding the effect it has on you is the most important thing because you can avoid most of the culprits. No doubt such intense sensitivity will at times catch you off guard (especially with foods) but for the most part you should be able to live with this. You want to let your health care providers know about your hypersensitivity so they will not prescribe even typical doses of some medications and they can use extreme caution. If you need anesthesia some time, this could be especially important.

Many people do have hypersensitivity to many of the sensory stimulants - taste, smell, sound, light, touch, etc. This may or may not accompany other disorders in the mental health category. It is not really something you can treat, except through avoidance and planning for ways around (sunglasses if light sensitive, ear plugs if noise sensitive, choosing clothing with certain characteristics, etc.).

Most people can live their lives without needing to be exposed to many of the medications that are out there. Alternative medicine and therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, cognitive therapy, biofeedback, etc. can often help in the same ways that the medications do for other. You may be one who needs to find these alternatives and determine what helps you. Even anxiety can be treated without the medication if the med itself adds to your problems.

I'm sure you are right that this could be an inherited trait. Your grandmother likely learned by trial and error how to cope with her problems. This can sometimes help, knowing there may be a genetic link that is out of your control. You can also see by her example, that it is possible to live without all the chemicals available. Environmental medicine is revealing links to many chemicals and substances in our environment that are contributing to our health problems. As time goes on we will probably learn that more of us are sensitive to some external substances than we realize - we have just learned to cope with it and blame it on other factors.

If you can find a good mental health therapist, he/she could help you find some alternatives. This does not mean you are crazy or that this is "all in your head" but teaching yourself how to deal with this problem will come through your head. Our brains are amazing - they respond sometimes in ways we don't understand, but they can also work in ways beyond our understanding to help us if we let them and we learn how. In choosing a therapist, do an interview to determine some important factors that would have bearing on their focus and if they don't seem to understand what you are dealing with, move on to someone who does. Bad therapy can be worse than none at all.

Good luck with this.
 susieQ1 - Mon Oct 01, 2007 6:14 pm

girlwhoaskalot, I don't know if I am allowed to respond since I am not a dr but I understand everything you are saying. I have been super sensitive to meds that effect the brain or nervous system all my life. I am now a senior. I almost died (or thought I was dying) from things as simple as an anhistamine. I would go into a coma like state for 2 or 3 days after taking an ordinary OTC medication. Some foods & supplements I can't tolerate either, for instance calcium or magnesium will cause me similar symptoms. I can smell alcohol & get woozy.
It makes life very difficult but just be very careful. I learned when trying a new med to always start with 1/4 or less of a dose & go from there. I usually get pediatric doses of what "precious" few meds I can take. Just wanted you to know you are not alone.

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