Friday, April 8, 2011

Your Voice on Drugs

As voice teachers and singers, most of us are aware of the side effects of at least some medications. What may not be common knowledge is just how many drugs, supplements, and even foods can have a detrimental effect on one’s voice. Here is just a short list of substances of which to be aware.

Alcohol is both dehydrating and causes swelling of the tissues (not to mention
impaired coordination). Best to have that glass of wine after a performance!

Aspirin. Aspirin causes platelet dysfunction and can lead to vocal fold hemorrhage. If used for pain, a safer alternative is ibuprofen (motrin). However, if one is prescribed aspirin for coronary artery disease or heart disease, taking a child’s dose daily is considered to have a low chance of jeopardizing the voice.

MAOIs (used in treatment of depression). Many of these drugs have been associated with speech disorders, hoarseness, and loss of voice, among other possible symptoms. Discuss possible side effects along with alternative drugs with your physician.

Antihypertensive (blodd pressure) Agents tend to dry mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. They are often used in combination with a diuretic that promotes dehydration. If mucosal drying and a dry, nonproductive cough persist, discuss using a different hypertensive agent with your physician.

Sleeping Pills. Avoid diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Warner-Lambert), an antihistamine that is a common ingredient in many sleep aids. It is a safe drug but produces excessive drying of mucosal membranes.

Cough Medications may be drying to the mucous membranes. Be sure that the one you use contains Guaifenesin, a mucolytic agent (provides moistures).

Supplements and Common Ingredients

Dandelion acts as a diuretic; can cause dehydration.

Used to treat upper respiratory infections. Short term, it can have an immune stimulating effect. Usage for mare than 8 weeks, though, may suppress the immune system and cause liver damage.

Elder acts as a diuretic; can cause dehydration.

Goldenseal may elevate blood pressure and cause allergic responses.

Melatonin Used by many as a sleep aid; it has hormonal activity and can also cause immune dysregulation.

Ginkgo May cause bleeding, GI upset, palpations. Do not take with blood thinning medication, insulin, antidepressants. One of the more worrisome, potential side effects is excesseive spontaneous bleeding with reports of spontaneous brain hemorrhage.

Ephedra Used to reduce weight, it has been known to be fatal. It may cause heart attacks, strokes, seizures, hypertension, or death.

Ginseng May cause agitation, insomnia, nervousness; may cause vaginal bleeding. Avoid using with caffeine, blood thinning, and antidiabetic medications.

Kava Liver toxicity, GI upset, headache, dizziness. Avoid using it. Several European countries have banned its use.

This is by no means a complete list and please keep in mind that these are possible side effects. Any questions or problems should be discussed with a qualified medical professional.

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