Psychiatric Drugs and Extreme Heat

Extreme record heat is hitting much of the U.S. this week, exposing an estimated 160 million Americans to dangerously high temperatures. We are on the way this weekend in joining them. The National Weather Service in Binghamton has issued a Heat Advisory, from noon Saturday to 10 PM on Monday. HEAT INDEX VALUES around 95 Saturday afternoon then increasing to around 100 both Sunday and Monday afternoons.

I just found out, this kind of heat can be especially dangerous for people, like myself who take certain psychiatric drugs.

I have diabetic neuropathy (diabetic nerve damage) and fibromyalgia, which I  treat with Cymbalta, an antidepressant that helps the symptoms. But because of the drug, my ankles swell, i sweats profusely, feel faint, and can be short of breath when it gets too hot. As a result, I spend a lot of summers inside.

I am among the one in six Americans who take psychiatric medications. Many can interfere with the activity of the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps regulate temperature and thirst.

Some people taking psychiatric medications can lose some of their thirst even as their body is more prone to dehydration. It’s a dangerous combination.

Extreme heat exposes an estimated 160 million Americans to dangerously high temperatures. And It’s no secret that such high temperatures can kill. According to the National Weather Service, from 2006-2016, an average of 97 people died each year from extreme heat.

Children under four and adults over 65 are most at risk of heat stroke, but people taking a variety of medications have a disproportionate risk.

Studies have shown that those with mental illness are at higher risk during heat waves. A study of the 2012 Wisconsin heat wave that killed 27 people found that more than half of those deaths had mental illness, and half of those were taking psychiatric medication.

Not all patients taking psychiatric medication will have increased sensitivity to extreme heat, but many who do suffer in the heat may not understand why.

Doctors prescribing medication need to warn patients about the risk heat presents, and encourage them to drink more water and stay out of the heat. I never knew of this till today.

Other medications that cause sensitivity to heat and interfere with temperature regulation include antihistamines, beta-blockers and amphetamines. Patients taking drugs should look into the side effects and plan ahead. They should also take care to properly store medication.

Talk to your doctor and find out how your meds can affect you in the summer heat.


Stay cool, informed and Keep Rockin’ – Tejay

Tejay Schwartz

Morning Drive Jock at GM Broadcasting / 102.5 The Vault. -- I was born in Denmark and moved to the US with my family when I was 3. I grew up in Upstate NY and have lived here since. I graduated from JC High school and Sullivan County Community. I'm working The 102.5 The Vault Morning Show as well as traffic (scheduling commercials).