Do People Abuse Levothyroxine

Levothyroxine Abuse: Dangers & Long-Term Effects

Many people don’t know what levothyroxine is. This is a generic version that is mostly found under the brand name of synthroid. It is a type of synthetic hormone. Doctors prescribe it for the treatment of hypothyroidism. This condition occurs if the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones for the body to stay at a normal height, weight, and energy level. Levothyroxine is also found under different brand names including unithroid, tirosint, levoxyl, levo-t, and levothroid. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) first approved levothyroxine during 2000. However, it has been used throughout the USA since sometime in the 1950s.

Levothyroxine treats more than congenital hypothyroidism. It also treats hypothyroidism related to age. This is the most common for women who are 60 years of age and older. This medication also helps to manage some of the thyroid cancer symptoms or the symptoms of enlarged thyroid glands. Levothyroxine will replace the thyroid hormone in one’s body if the thyroid isn’t producing enough of the hormone on its own. It will also replace the hormone if the thyroid needed to be removed with surgery.

Defining Hypothyroidism   

It is important to understand more about hypothyroidism before learning even more about this medication. Some of the signs that you may have hypothyroidism or a different thyroid issue include the following:

  • Slowed speech
  • Poor growth physically
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of energy
  • Hair loss
  • Excessive tiredness or fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Thick, dry skin
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Depression
  • Increased sensitivity to temperature (usually to the cold)

If your thyroid is functioning normally, you won’t need to take synthetic hormones to treat any thyroid issues. However, in some instances, there are people who will abuse levothyroxine to enhance their performance, lose weight, or increase their energy levels. Self-medicating with this medication or abusing it can cause life-threatening, severe side effects. If you have been abusing this medication, please contact a Luxury Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center today.

Levothyroxine Side Effects  

Those who are using this medication have a risk of experiencing some side effects. This is true even when they are taking the medication as it is prescribed to them. It should be noted that the side effects which are untreated or unmonitored could become quite serious. Those who are abusing this medication have a higher risk for experiencing side effects which are uncomfortable. These can also become quite serious with time. Some of the most commonly known side effects which are associated with the use of this medication include the following:

  • Tremors
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss (usually temporary)

Some of the more serious side effects might become life-threatening. These might include the following:

  • Irregular pulse
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat

If you experience these side effects, talk to your doctor right away.

Levothyroxine Long-Term Side Effects  

Since women are more likely to get acquired hypothyroidism than men are, women are more likely to have serious side effects from using this medication. After the age of 60 for women, they are more likely to get osteoporosis. However, if they take levothyroxine they are also more likely to develop hypothyroidism. Over time, levothyroxine can reduce bone mineral density. Women are more likely to develop this loss than men are, as well. In addition, there was a Journal of Preventive Medicine & Public Health in 2014 study, which showed a connection between older women using this medication and broken bones.

Another side effect of using this medication could be cardiovascular damage. Heart attack signs may include chest pain and shortness of breath. Someone may experience heart failure as well. Some signs of this may include irregular heart rhythm, leg swelling, fast heartbeat, or extreme fatigue. All these symptoms should be treated by emergent medical care. It should be known that even though you may have these symptoms immediately, damage to the heart usually takes some time.

Another side effects known with levothyroxine abuse is choreoathetosis. This is a type of movement disorder. The body will involuntarily writhe or twitch. This can lead to impaired daily functioning. Generally, choreoathetosis will prevent someone from walking or moving normally. It could even cause disability in some people. A 2009 report showed a connection between abusing levothyroxine and thyrotoxicosis leading to choreoathetosis.

Levothyroxine Abuse for Enhancing Performance or Losing Weight  

Some people will abuse this medication to increase their energy level or to help them lose weight. While this isn’t very common, it does happen. Many athletes will abuse this drug for these reasons. A report from 2015 shows that a runner was pushed into using this drug by her own trainer, so she could lose more weight and compete.

While this medication can be misused and abused by athletes, it should be known that the World Anti-Doping Agency or WADA doesn’t list this drug on the forbidden substance list. Even with the dangers known with levothyroxine, athletes can use this medication even when their thyroid functions are normal.

Some athletes abuse this drug to enhance their performance, while others do so to lose more weight. Stimulants such as cocaine and adderall have also been misused for similar reasons.

Withdrawing and Overdosing from Levothyroxine  

It is not dangerous to withdraw from this medication. In fact, when someone is abusing this drug, quitting use of the drug is much safer than continued use of it. However, with this being said, someone may experience symptoms associated with their original thyroid issues, if they had any. Some of these symptoms include dry skin, low energy levels, depression, and weight gain. Those who are abusing this drug might develop resistance to insulin during the withdrawal process. This can trigger them to develop diabetes.

When someone takes levothyroxine as it is prescribed, this medication can be a safe option for treating disorders related to thyroid functioning. However, sometimes this drug is misused or abused. Sometimes people mix it with other substances to amplify the effects. This also increases the risk for overdosing. 9-1-1 should be called right away if someone shows the following levothyroxine overdose signs:

  • Leg cramping
  • Intense headaches
  • Extreme nervousness
  • Physical tremors that can’t be controlled
  • Chest pain
  • Irritability
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid or pounding heartbeat
  • Extremely high fever

There are other signs which might signify someone has used too much of this medication as well. Some of these signs include the following:

  • Warm skin
  • Feverish skin
  • Increased metabolism
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Gastrointestinal discomforts
  • Issues with concentration
  • Memory loss

If you or someone you know is experiencing these overdose signs, be sure to seek medical attention immediately.

Dangers When Using Levothyroxine with Other Types of Prescription and Illegal Medications  

Since this medication is a known supplement for hormone stabilization, it can interact with a host of other prescriptions. It is essential to tell your prescribing doctor if you are using any other substances including prescription or illegal drugs. Let them know if you use or abuse alcohol or other medications as well. You should also tell your doctor if you have any alcohol or drug abuse history. Some of the substances which might interact or interfere negatively with this medication include the following:

  • Aspirin
  • Amphetamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Blood thinners
  • Medications for treating heart disease
  • Drugs to treat seizures
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Ketamine
  • Insulin or other medications for treating diabetes

If you take any of these medications, be sure to tell your doctor before being prescribed levothyroxine.

Getting Professional Help to Stop Abusing Levothyroxine and to Prevent a Relapse When in Recovery  

Abusing alcohol or drugs does require an evidence-based treatment program. This will begin with a detox center program. After that is through, the rehab program can follow. Getting support from your loved ones, support groups, and therapists can also be greatly beneficial. When rehab is finished, it is essential to stay focused on sobriety and recovery. There are many recovering communities which can help you to stay focused on these things. There are also numerous different types of support groups which can help you as well.

A great place to start when looking for support, is with family, friends, local church groups, AA or NA groups, and SAMHSA online treatment locator. It has been shown that evidence-based rehab and detox are very effective in helping people to overcome their substance use disorder disorder. This includes abuse of any drugs including levothyroxine. However, according to NIDA or the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 40-60% of those who have an addiction will relapse.

Focusing on aftercare, after the rehab program is finished, is one of the best things you can do. The aftercare plan can help you to complete the recovery program and stay on track in your recovering lifestyle as well. Just keep in mind that relapse is always possible.

Do you have an addiction to any drugs? Are you abusing levothyroxine? If so, you should reach out to get help today. You can enroll into an evidence-based treatment program and get the help you need. Make that call to turn your life around right away.

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Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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