It influences mood, appetite, sleep, memory, and learning, and can be found in your gastrointestinal tract as well as your central nervous system: Serotonin. Most commonly recognized as a neurotransmitter in the brain that balances a host of pleasure centers, this naturally secreted chemical substance will release itself in great abundance especially when the human body is subjected to drug abuse, namely ecstasy and LSD. While serotonin isn’t inherently “bad” per se, too much of a good thing can be bad and the effects it can have on your body when abused can include: diarrhea, shivering, loss of muscle coordination, high fever, seizures, and even unconsciousness.
We’re talking about a condition aptly referred to as Serotonin Syndrome (SS). According to an article recently released via Medical News Today’s website:
” When high levels of serotonin accumulate in your body or your brain, this is known as serotonin syndrome. It occurs as a reaction to drugs, usually a mixture of two drugs or a newly prescribed medication, though sometimes it happens when the dosage of a medicine you already take is increased.”
That’s right. The worst, and in many ways surprising, part about SS isn’t even that you have to be an illicit drug user to suffer from its mild-to-severe side effects, but simply by taking your daily medication. Nevertheless, it is really only those who simultaneously abuse antidepressants and migraine medication or painkillers—whether due to chemical or psychological dependence—that will find themselves at the most risk. It marks another in a long line of reasons why readily available medication (whether prescribed or over-the-counter) may very well be spelling its own end.
If symptoms do occur, it’ll usually be within the hour of taking said medications. Regardless, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked manufacturers that they label products that may put patients at high risk of serotonin syndrome if combined with other medications, and the effects this can include.
Although SS is easily the lesser of threats affecting Americans today—antidepressants being responsible for a whopping 42 deaths back in 2009 (of which Selective Serotonin Re uptake Inhibitors [SSRIs] were responsible for 7) and ranking #6 as a drug most commonly associated with fatalities—the potential for disaster is staggering: almost 103,000 cases annually of individuals being exposed at some point to its toxic side effects, to an easily avoidable and lethal end.
With more and more people coming to rely on prescription medication for everything from runny noses to hangovers, will SS prove to be the biggest hurdle yet?
Let us know what you think.