The medications that change who we are

Summary and Analysis

An interesting article concerning possible personality and other changes caused by commonly available, prescribed or over-the-counter drugs. While the article relates to drugs other than those typically associated with addiction or addiction treatment, it would also seem to raise a red flag for the widespread, indiscriminate use of drugs. 

If, as the research suggests, commonly prescribed drugs can have a significant impact on personality in some percentage of patients, could the same issue apply to those taking much stronger drugs including those used for Medication Assisted Treatment which are in many cases opioid-based?

Unfortunately, as pointed out in the article, drug-associated personality-changes are often not the target of scientific study, leaving a dearth of available information.

Excerpted from BBC

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…Over the years, Golomb has collected reports from patients across the United States – tales of broken marriages, destroyed careers, and a surprising number of men who have come unnervingly close to murdering their wives. In almost every case, the symptoms began when they started taking statins, then promptly returned to normal when they stopped; one man repeated this cycle five times before he realised what was going on.

According to Golomb, this is typical – in her experience, most patients struggle to recognise their own behavioural changes, let alone connect them to their medication. In some instances, the realisation comes too late: the researcher was contacted by the families of a number of people, including an internationally renowned scientist and a former editor of a legal publication, who took their own lives.

We’re all familiar with the mind-bending properties of psychedelic drugs – but it turns out ordinary medications can be just as potent. From paracetamol (known as acetaminophen in the US) to antihistamines, statins, asthma medications and antidepressants, there’s emerging evidence that they can make us impulsive, angry, or restless, diminish our empathy for strangers, and even manipulate fundamental aspects of our personalities, such as how neurotic we are.

In most people, these changes are extremely subtle. But in some they can also be dramatic.