Can One Take Too Much of Stomach Medications?

PPIs are a group of medications commonly used to treat acid-related digestive disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. Although they effectively reduce stomach acid production, they can also cause significant side effects when misused.

One of the main concerns with the misuse of PPIs is the risk of overuse. PPIs are often prescribed for long periods, even when unnecessary. This can lead to several negative consequences, including an increased risk of infection, kidney disease, and bone fractures. Long-term use of PPIs can also interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B12.

Another issue with the misuse of PPIs is the risk of dependence. PPIs are designed to reduce the production of stomach acid, and when used for extended periods, the body may become dependent on them to maintain a healthy level of acidity. This can result in rebound acid hyper-secretion, a condition in which the body produces too much acid once the medication is discontinued.

Proton pump inhibitors are sometimes prescribed for conditions unrelated to acid-related digestive disorders. This can lead to inappropriate use of the medication and can result in the development of severe side effects. PPIs have been linked to an increased risk of Clostridium difficile infection, a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea.

Things to be aware of when prescribed PPIs

  • Incorrect dosing: Taking PPIs at higher doses or more frequently than a healthcare provider recommends can lead to an increased risk of side effects.
  • Self-medication: People may also misuse PPIs by self-medicating with over-the-counter (OTC) PPIs without seeking medical advice. This can lead to incorrect dosing or the use of PPIs for conditions where it is inappropriate to use this class of medication, thus masking potentially more serious conditions.
  • Interactions with other medications: PPIs can interact with other medicines, including blood thinners, iron supplements, and some antibiotics. Patients should inform their physician and pharmacist that they are taking them, including over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, to avoid potential interactions.
  • Lack of alternative options: PPIs are often used as the first line of treatment for acid-related digestive disorders, even though other therapies, such as lifestyle changes (diet & exercise), may be more appropriate for some patients. In some cases, PPIs may also be used instead of investigating the underlying cause of acid-related digestive symptoms.
  • Misuse in children: PPIs are not recommended for use in children, except in rare cases and under the supervision of a healthcare provider. PPI abuse in children can have several negative consequences, including impaired growth and development.

We remind patients regularly that it is essential to note that while PPIs effectively reduce acid production in the stomach, they do not address the root cause of acid-related digestive disorders. For some patients, making lifestyle changes, such as avoiding trigger foods and reducing stress, may be more effective in managing symptoms than relying solely on PPIs.

PPIs are very effective when used correctly, and we want to educate against their misuse.  By being informed and taking a cautious approach to PPIs, patients can help reduce the risk of adverse consequences associated with these medications.

If you have questions about PPIs and their correct use, talk to one of our Dispensaries Ltd. pharmacists.