Herbal Supplements And Vitamins: Dangers Behind Them

Health supplements and vitamins have been making news most of this week due to Lamar Odom’s health scare. The former NBA player was found unconscious at a Nevada brothel after he allegedly used herbal Viagra supplements and cocaine.

Lamar Odom’s recent news has raised some concern about herbal supplements and their safety. Some are now wondering if they cause major health risks when mixed with illegal drugs.

It also has some consumers wondering about the difference between herbal Viagra supplements and Viagra medication. Although some people think these supplements contain safer ingredients, many of them contain the active ingredient found in real Viagra, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

“Not only do these products contain undisclosed drug ingredients, but they also sometimes may include combinations of undisclosed ingredients or excessively high doses, both potentially dangerous situations.”

The Mayo Clinic defines herbal Viagra as “any product that claims to be a natural form of Viagra…[and is] advertised as a cheaper alternative, available without a prescription.”

Odom allegedly took supplements called Reload 72-hour Strong and Libimax, according to a spokesperson for the Nevada brothel where he collapsed. Tests taken by the FDA in 2013 found that the supplements contain sildenafil, Viagra’s active ingredient, in Reload. Another test in 2009 found that Libimax contained tadalafil, an active ingredient found in prescription drugs for erectile dysfunction.

Now a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at over a decade’s worth of hospital admission information in the U.S. and found that over 20,000 emergency room visits are caused by herbal supplements and vitamins. The study found that most of these accidental overdoses were caused by children, while others took herbal supplements in an effort to lose weight or get a good night’s sleep. About one-third of the hospitalizations were for people in their 20s and 30s. Most of them complained of heart problems, according to the study. The research also revealed that about 2,154 of those emergency room visits resulted in hospitalizations.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The research published in the journal used hospital data from over 63 emergency departments across the U.S. from 2004 to 2013.

But unfortunately the herbal supplement and vitamin business is booming. In fact, it’s a growing $32 billion per year industry, according to another report, via the New York Times. This new research revealed how shocking it is to see how many people think herbal supplements are safe, even if they aren’t FDA approved, according to Duff Mackay, spokesperson for the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

“We have over 150 million Americans taking these products each year. This suggests that far less than one-tenth of 1 percent of supplement users will visit the emergency room.”

There are also swallowing problems associated with supplements and vitamins that are likely to occur in adults 65 and older. Mackay says that these choking hazards should be addressed by the FDA, even if the supplements aren’t necessarily FDA-approved.

“If they think that capsule sizes in the elderly are an issue, they could put out an advisory and the industry would respond. The current law as it’s written has everything in it to make this change.”

When taking herbal supplements or vitamins, most consumers don’t know how much of the active ingredient is featured, and what other ingredients they’re taking. The best thing you can do is talk to your doctor or a medical professional before taking of any of these medications to avoid serious health problems. You should also talk to your doctor if you have a heart problem, or if you plan on taking a weight loss supplement. As always, you should keep them out of the reach of your children, and always take precautions if you mix them with alcohol or illegal drugs.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

When it comes to swallowing large supplements and vitamins, you should swallow one pill at a time, cut or slice large capsules, and swallow with plenty of fluids. Also, educating yourself about the herbal supplements and vitamins you take or intend to take to decrease the chance of emergency room visits.

[Image: Mario Tama/Getty Images]