You Should Never Take These Dangerous Medications If You’re Over 50

People are living longer than ever — and we can thank modern medicine for that. Now that we know many diseases and conditions can be kept at bay thanks to prescription medications, the over-50 crowd is truly thriving. And many of us can even expect to see life over 80, 90, or even 100.

There’s always a downside, however. Though certain medications can be life-saving, it doesn’t mean they’re all safe. And for those over 50, you should know the meds that may harm you the most.

1. Benadryl

Man sneezing in a tissue

It may impair your memory and ability to learn. | iStock/Getty Images

You can buy Benadryl over the counter at just about any pharmacy, but that doesn’t make it totally safe for older adults. According to the renowned list by doctor Mark Beers (appropriately called the Beers List), antihistamines like Benadryl are best avoided for the upper age groups.

It turns out antihistamine usage can severely impair your memory and ability to learn, says Harvard Health Publishing. It may even be linked to an increased risk of developing dementia.

Next: This common heart medication can actually be toxic to older adults.

2. Lanoxin

Sick woman with heart attack,

Heart problems? You may want to skip Lanoxin. | SIphotography/iStock/Getty Images

This drug can potentially save your life, especially if you have known heart problems. But it’s not right for everyone, especially if you’re over the age of 65. AARP notes heart meds like Lanoxin can be toxic if you’re taking a dosage that’s over 0.125 milligrams. Double check with your doctor that your dosage is appropriate for your needs and age group.

Next: It’s good for sleep, but not necessarily right for you depending on your age. 

3. Lunesta

Portrait of a man sleeping soundly in his bedroom.

It may put you to sleep, but it may not be worth the side effects. | Minerva Studio/Getty Images

Insomnia is tough, and it certainly affects millions. Unfortunately, if Lunesta is your sleed aid of choice, you may want to try a non-pharmaceutical alternative instead. Consumer Reports explains unwanted side effects like dizziness, confusion, and next-day drowsiness may hit older adults harder. They can also double your risk of falls and fractures.

Next: If you have gastrointestinal distress, you may be taking this worrisome drug.

4. Alverine

Woman with stomach problem

This muscle relaxer may make other things worse. | Tharakorn/iStock/Getty Images 

Those who have irritable bowel syndrome are certainly in need of relief, and that’s where Alverine comes into play. Unfortunately, you might not realize that Alverine is actually a muscle relaxer. And for those over the age of 50, muscle relaxers can exacerbate certain symptoms, like dizziness, AARP notes. Similar to Lunesta, this means your chances of falling and injuring yourself are much higher.

Next: This antibiotic is common, so beware. 

5. Macrobid

Image of beautiful young woman sitting on toilet.

It may help with urinary infections, but could hurt your lungs. | iStock.com/vadimguzhva

Urinary tract infections are no joke. Though you’re not likely to be on an antibiotic like Macrobid for long periods of time, it can still present dangers in the short term. The Beers List says pulmonary toxicity is a rare but deadly side effect that’s more common for older adults. In essence, this antibiotic you think will help could actually ruin your lungs, which can lead to pneumonia or a chronic lung disease.

Next: High blood pressure is a common issue, so you may be prescribed this med for it. 

6. Catapres

Doctor's Hand Checking Blood Pressure

Choose another blood pressure reducer instead. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

There are many medications designed to treat high blood pressure, so you’ll want to double check with your doctor that this one’s the best for you if it’s what you’re prescribed. MedLinePlus warns that if you’re over 65, there are much safer alternatives you should seek out aside from Catapres. And the Beers List says drugs in this class, known as alpha antagonists, put you at a higher risk of toxicity to your central nervous system.

Next: It’s possible to overdose on this insomnia cure. 

7. Butisol

Woman lying in bed suffering from insomnia

Becoming dependent on any drug can be a scary situation, | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images 

Similar to Lunesta, AARP notes anti-insomnia drugs like Butisol can lead to drowsiness and confusion long after you’re even off of them. Not only that, but the Beers List adds that barbiturates like this one have a high risk of physical dependence, which may be even worse in older adults. This makes overdose a concern in the over-50 crowd, especially if the medication is used for longer than two weeks.

Next: If you experience seizures, you’ll want to ask your doctor if this medication is really the best one.

8. Luminal

MRI brain scan

There are overdose concerns with this drug. | iStock.com/Movus

This common seizure medication should also be taken with caution if you’re an older adult. Luminal is a barbiturate hypnotic, says WebMD, which the Beers List explains makes it a candidate for dependence. There are also overdose concerns here as well. Not only that, but dizziness and drowsiness are common side effects that may result in a deadly fall if you’re over the age of 65.

Next: This medication can really help with certain mental health disorders, but it can prove deadly in older folks.

9. Abilify

happy and sad two-faced expression

This could increase your risk of stroke. | iStock.com/twinsterphoto

Dementia is on the rise, and with that comes a demand for more effective treatments. Thankfully, many older adults are being treated successfully with antipsychotics, and Abilify is one that’s particularly popular. But that doesn’t mean the med is without its risks.

A study found in older patients with dementia, Abilify increases the risk of stroke, and ultimately, death. The FDA has since issued a warning regarding this risk, too.

Next: This drug may give you negative side effects a lot longer than you anticipate. 

10. Valium

A woman with anxiety featured image

The effects may last long after you’ve stopped taking the drug. | iStock.com/Viktor_Gladkov

If you suffer from both sleeplessness and anxious thoughts, your doctor may see Valium as a good fit. But HealthDay notes you may want to seek out a different option due to how long it’s stored in your body.

Valium is stored in body fat, where it’s then released slowly. This means even after you’ve stopped taking it, you may feel its effects, which can include confusion and disorientation. Due to this, as well as the possibility of dependence and withdrawal, it should be a no-go for the over-50 crowd.

Next: Diabetics, beware of this one.

11. Sliding-scale insulin

Male Diabetic Checking Blood Sugar

No wants to deal with a diabetic coma. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Depending on your diabetes type, your doctor may recommend sliding-scale insulin. Medical News Today explains the sliding scale tells you how much insulin you should take before each meal, though the American Diabetes Association is starting to really push against this dangerous method.

The Beers List explains older adults using the sliding scale have a higher risk of experiencing very low blood sugar levels without helping their high blood sugar issue either. These extreme highs and lows can lead to a diabetic coma despite your best efforts.

Next: This muscle relaxer might not actually work that well anyway. 

12. Soma

The relaxant could lead to falling or injury. | Andrey Popov/iStock/Getty Images

Skeletal muscle relaxers of all kinds are dangerous to the older crowd, and that includes the popular drug Soma. AARP explains meds like Soma can affect more than just your muscles, as they can cause grogginess, confusion, and even urination problems, too. This means there’s also a higher chance of falling and injury. Not only that, but there’s not too much evidence showing they even work well in the first place.

Next: It seems innocent, but this medication might do more harm than good.

13. Feldene

Aged woman suffering from pain in knee

This drug could impact your heart health. | Maroke/iStock/Getty Images

You’ve heard of other NSAIDs and certainly have used an over-the-counter one before. But not all are created equal. AARP notes Feldene is a long-lasting NSAID that can increase the risk of indigestion, ulcers, and bleeding in the stomach. Not only that, but it can also increase your blood pressure and negatively affect your heart.

If you must have an NSAID, the publication suggests choosing a shorter-acting Ibuprofen instead, like Motrin.

Next: Your doctor may give you this for pain, but it might not be worth it. 

14. Darvon

Low back pain

Chronic pain should be treated in other ways. | iStock.com/sanjagrujic

It’s common for older folks to be given Darvon for their chronic pain, but HealthDay says you may want to look for an alternative. Darvon can negatively affect your central nervous system and your heart. And this type of med evidently doesn’t work as well as it claims it should for many people, either. Good old acetaminophen might be a better bet.

Next: This antidepressant can wreak havoc on your blood pressure.

15. Elavil

Hands of Patient lying on bed

Make sure the medication is right for you first. | Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

Elavil can be life-saving in its effects on your mood, but it might not be the best fit for everyone — and this is particularly true if you’re over 50. HealthDay says this med can cause extremely low blood pressure in older folks. Instead of Elavil, you may want to consider a serotonin reuptake inhibitor drug, like Zoloft, to avoid this potentially deadly side effect.

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