Like many people, I have to take prescription drugs daily to keep me healthy, however many people take prescription and over-the-counter drugs as if there are zero consequences. Then, something like COVID-19 turns up and makes us think a bit harder about our lifestyle. Has your tendency to pop a pill at the slightest sight of discomfort made your body less effective at fighting diseases?
In many cases, it has. It’s called drug tolerance, and it happens when your body is overexposed to powerful-yet-widely-available drugs and develops a level of resistance. In short, the medication becomes less successful as your immune system and other vital bodily processes don’t experience the same benefits.
While tolerance isn’t the same as addiction, it’s still an incredibly dangerous and unhealthy side-effect of getting overly familiar with pills. Here are four ways it can impact your life, and why you might want to reconsider how you self-prescribe and dose yourself when you’re ill.
It’s Not Well Understood
If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard or read much regarding the topic, it’s because the researchers don’t fully understand it extensively enough yet. That’s a scary thought as scientists know that drug tolerance is real and hazardous, but they’re unsure why it happens in some people and not in others.
So what does this mean? It means it’s hard to tell how many times you need to take a basic drug to develop a tolerance. It means drugs that you believe to be harmless in the grand scheme of things could be harming your mental and physical wellbeing. It means a simple headache could encourage you to do irrevocable damage.
One thing that studies do highlight is that tolerance is a side-effect of any drug. It doesn’t matter whether it’s regulated, such as paracetamol, or unregulated, such as cocaine - the chances of developing tolerance are as high.
Cross-tolerance Is Likely
Scarily, tolerance to one drug doesn’t stop there. Cross-tolerance, where your body’s ability to fight off the effects of a drug is as strong in other areas, is thought to be likely. This is because the human body is incredibly perceptive, recognising the properties of medicines and linking them with several different systems.
Not only does this mean that your condition might worsen because the medication isn’t working as effectively, but it also could cause future ailments to escalate, even though they’re unrelated. Although it seems as if it will never happen, it already has with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that has evolved to defeat. It’s no wonder an osteopath or acupuncturist appears more and more appealing to some people!
Whether you make mistakes with recreational drugs or follow the advice of certified medical professionals, an increase in your tolerance levels isn’t going to help your ability to remain healthy. However, it’s tough not to avoid higher rates of tolerance when the use of opioids in the UK has risen by 35% in the last decade.
You’ll Boost The Dosage
The temptation when you don’t instantly feel the effects of medicines is to up the dosage. More drugs in your system means their power is enhanced. Of course, there is a glaring downside to this tactic - it increases your exposure to addiction.
A 2019 review found that one in four people, or 25% of the public, take addictive medicines. That has led to a rise in the number of overdoses, too, with the figure now standing at 12,000 per year. Taking more pills is a dangerous method as it comes with a host of consequences that you might have to deal with for years.
It depends on how you view your tolerance. Would you realise there is a problem and that you need to scale back, or would you continue regardless?
It Will Cause More Pain
The risk of drug tolerance is that your doctor can’t treat your symptoms successfully enough for the pain to cease. They may be able to perform short-term measures to offer you some relief, but the pain could return down the line. A relapse or flare-up of the condition is inevitable unless there is a solid plan in place to eliminate it entirely.
Whether it’s mental or physical, it will only cause more pain in the future as the stress of dealing with chronic pain is as potent as the pain itself. Plus, as your doctor attempts to find a new avenue, you could suffer from medical negligence - changes to doses and medications can result in errors.
Nobody is saying that you shouldn’t listen to your Doctor and take prescriptions as prescribed. However, you may want to factor in how often you use medicines and how it could lead to the above.