Monthly Archives: March 2013

My adverse reactions to Prilosec

In the early fall of 2012, I realized that the OTC version of Prilosec I’d been taking was not helping me as much as it had when I was taking the prescription version 12 years prior. I went to a recommended gastroenterologist and spoke to him. He told me that taking OTC Prilosec was a joke because it was only 10mg. For someone like me, with the symptoms I was having, I needed to be on the full dosage, 40mg twice a day. Since I’d taken RX Prilosec before, and knew I didn’t have any side effects with it, I filled the prescription and began taking the pills.

See, I’m really sensitive to medications. If there is a side effect, I will get it. I can’t take anything anymore, including advil or motrin or alleve or anything…OTC or Rx. I even have weird side effects from taking anti-biotics. I only take them when I absolutely have to, and in that case I only take a z-pack, because I know the side effects I will get (which include burning hands and feet…something my doctors had never heard of, but it comes on shortly after I start the first pill and doesn’t go away for several weeks after I’ve finished the pills). But since I’d taken RX Prilosec for almost 8 months the first time, I figured it was safe.

I began taking the Prilosec as prescribed. The first week, it relieved my symptoms and I felt okay. Shortly thereafter, maybe 5 days in, the chronic gastritis symptoms returned, and some new ones came on. I thought it was the gastritis getting worse, but found out afterwards that it was the Prilosec side effects (like that horrible lump in the throat feeling? yeah, that one that makes you feel like you have to clear your throat all the time or swallow harder, or for some people–gag!) that were bothering me.

At the time I was taking Prilosec, I’d already been seeing a therapist about some grief issues, which were wrapped up with some mild depression over the loss I had sustained. The anniversary of the loss was coming up, and I knew I’d need to talk to someone, so I started going to see a nice (and highly recommended) therapist to talk. It seemed like she was able to help me with the grief and the trauma from the grief, but the depression seemed to be getting worse…going from mild to somewhat moderate. In addition, I began to feel tired all the time, lethargic and uninterested in getting out of bed. My energy was gone, my interest in even moving to go to the bathroom was zilch. I’d been dealing with food issues because of my gastritis, including cutting back on carbs and sugar, as well as the regular GERD diet, and I was eating smaller meals to relieve my stomach pain and heartburn. When I began to drift into this lethargy, I stopped eating almost everything and began watching every morsel that went into my mouth. I also started to become paranoid about what was IN the food I was eating. I was sure everything I ate would give me an allergic reaction (like anaphylaxis). Food that I’d never had issues with before were starting to scare me. If it wasn’t something plain, like grilled chicken or lettuce or cottage cheese, I wouldn’t eat it. My mother made tuna salad with mayonnaise and celery, but I wouldn’t eat it because I was afraid there was something in it that would make me sick. I eat tuna salad all the time…but my brain was telling me no way was I putting that in my body.

I also began to be afraid to be alone. And in some cases, not just alone in the house, but alone in my bedroom–which was where I was living…in bed. I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t moving. I was existing, in a weird reality of depression and anxiety and paranoia. In addition, my body was in pain. My neck and shoulders were stiff, my limbs all felt heavy and immovable. I couldn’t hold my head up. But yet, I couldn’t lay still in bed…I was constantly shifting and moving my legs and my body. There were times when I could carry on what felt like a normal conversation with the person who was staying with me, and other times when I couldn’t bear to concentrate. I was too tired, or too depressed, or too upset. This all was occurring when my husband and I were hosting his parents in our home for a week. What luck, yeah? They were in from California, and we hardly ever see them. So while my husband entertained his family, my mother would sit with me in the bedroom.

One evening while the in-laws were here, I just couldn’t deal anymore. With encouragement from my parents and my husband, I decided to go to the ER of a local but well-known hospital. The night before, I packed things I might need if they wanted me to stay. I prepared myself with personal products and clothing, wrote a note to my husband about how I felt about him, how sorry I was for doing this to him, and what I wanted from him if I didn’t come home again. I was entirely convinced that the hospital would want to commit me, or that I would die. The morning we went to the ER, I begged my husband, in tears, not to leave me alone. Not to let them take me away. That it was my utmost fear that they were going to commit me and take me away from everyone I knew. I was desperate enough to go for help, but terrified at what the “help” might actually mean.

My ER experience…

(Luckily, after researching Prilosec after my ER visit, I quit cold turkey and the “adverse reactions” tapered off. It took several weeks for me to start feeling normal again! It is appalling that this isn’t being talked about and that doctors aren’t warning their patients of the possible adverse reactions…)


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Anxiety is inside me

That’s what I have, anxiety. Sometimes it splashes into panic, but most of the time it is a humming, buzzing level of anxiety. It’s always inside me, sometimes I notice it, sometimes I can ignore it. But no matter what, it’s there, and I have it.

I’m okay to tell people I have anxiety. I can admit I have had panic attacks — at this point in time I am able to recognize two major episodes. The first one brought on by my first illness about thirteen years ago, the second one induced (I believe) by an adverse reaction I had to Prilosec. The two panic attacks were very different, which has also led me to feel confirmation that the second panic attack was due to the Prilosec I was on. Even so, yes, it was a panic attack. And yes, I went to a local walk-in clinic to get medication because I was so afraid that I was not going to recover without pharmaceutical help. The adverse side affects to Prilosec I had were varied and, well, pretty intense. I hope to never forget the whole incident, because it taught me a lot. And in this instance, Google was my friend, because it helped me find that I was not the only one having these side effects from Prilosec.

I have chronic health issues, which I will talk about another time. The onset of those health issues began in 2000, and it took years to figure out what was going on. During that period of time, I had lots of health anxiety because no one could tell me what was going on. I’m one of those people who needs to know. It’s why I pretty much live by Google. I’m learning now that Googling symptoms or researching health-related things is bad for me. I am trying to restructure my thinking to not run to Google everything. When I began to understand why I was having the health symptoms I had, my anxiety levels decreased. I understood what was happening, and even though in many cases I was unable to get rid of the symptoms, at least I knew what they were coming from. It was the unknown or unnamed that I could not handle.

For many years after my diagnoses, my anxiety was manageable, where most days I was unaware of it. I know, of course, it was still inside me, but I was living as normal a life as I could with my chronic illnesses. Then I had a traumatic event. Grief and depression began creeping up on me, and I believe it triggered some of my chronic illnesses, among which is a stomach ailment (chronic gastritis). When I went onto prescription Prilosec from my gastroenterologist, the depression got worse and the anxiety got higher. I have health anxiety, so every time I had a pain, my anxiety  levels peaked…it was a vicious cycle. On top of which the adverse reactions to the Prilosec started piling up, and I had no idea where those symptoms were coming from. By this time I was seeing a therapist for the grief and depression, but when I began to have more major issues that I couldn’t identify or handle, I ended up going to the ER. I stayed for many hours, had many tests, unfortunately got a bad diagnosis for something totally unrelated, and was sent home after being rehydrated. The day after I came home from the hospital, I had the second major panic attack… I was getting an adrenaline rush, I was shaking and crying, moaning, wailing, telling family members that my brain was broken. My husband and mother helped me get dressed and into the car, where I continued to sob uncontrollably, and we sped off to a walk-in clinic. I do NOT take medication because of side effects, but when I’d been in the ER, they gave me a small dose of Ativan so I could go for an MRI (I have a fear of MRIs). Since I was in the hospital where I could be seen to if there was an adverse reaction to the Ativan, I let them give it to me. And I was okay, other than feeling sleepy and sort of…numb. So I thought if we went to a walk-in clinic, I could get two or three pills to tide me over until I could see my primary care doctor to get a prescription. However, the clinic would only prescribe Xanex, and I’d never had that before. We went to a CVS to get the Rx filled (the clinic never stocks these kinds of meds, they tell me after the exam), but I knew I wouldn’t take the pills. At the time, my paranoia and fear was too high. By the time we returned home from the clinic and CVS, I had calmed enough that I could lay down without sobbing. I think I slept, while my husband tried to contact my therapist again. He had tried before we went to the ER and after we got back, but she never responded. When we asked about medication, she told him to call my primary.

By this time, my husband was really pissed off at my therapist for being both unresponsive and unhelpful. The next day, she referred me to a new therapy office where I could be seen by both a therapist and a psychiatrist…my current state was too much for her to handle. I made the appointments with the new therapist and to see the psychiatrist, and shortly after that, began researching Prilosec. Something came together in my head that morning, telling me that my depression had started getting worse after starting the Prilosec, and so did the rest of my health. I was shocked and appalled at what I found… I talk about that in another post, because it is important on its own. I’m well aware that not everyone has the same issues I did with Prilosec, but it’s clear from the reports that many many people do…most of them without any history of anxiety or panic. And if no one talks about what could happen, others could wind up the way I did, without knowing what was happening.

This was a long first post, so I’m going to cut off here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here merely to bash Prilosec, it just so happens that it is an important link in my life and my experience.


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