Phenergan qualifies as the second in our series of Drugs That Do Everything. Although it was initially prescribed as an antinausea drug to be given with sedatives before an operation, it has gone on to be used as an antipsychotic and an antihistamine.
Cancer patients have been given the drug to help curb nausea and vomiting caused by the chemotherapy, but it has also been given to people who suffer general nausea attacks that are not improved through dietary changes.
It is used to treat or prevent allergy symptoms and motion sickness, and to promote sleep and sedation so what was intended as a fairly heavyweight drug to be given in hospitals has become a way of helping people to sleep better. It’s also been recommended for use with children aged from just one year.
While the manufacturer says the drug is well tolerated, and can even be taken safely while pregnant, others are not so sure. America’s Public Citizen Health Research Group says the drug can cause parkinsonism and tardive dyskinesia where the body twitches involuntarily especially if taken for a long time (Worst Pills, Best Pills, Washington, 1993).
Warning reactions to look out for include lip smacking, chewing movements, puffing of cheeks, rapid tongue movement, or uncontrolled movements of the arms and legs as these could indicate tardive dyskinesia. Signs of parkinsonism include difficulty with speaking, loss of balance, muscle spasms, stiffness of arms or legs, blurred vision and unusual twisting movements.
Other symptoms that should be reported to your doctor include fainting, skin rash, abnormal bleeding or bruising, fever and nightmares. The manufacturer also adds anorexia, hypotension, irregular heart beat and anaemia.
Worth it, though, for a decent night’s sleep, we suppose.