When fresh air and exercise come together, they are a tried-and-true recipe for improving physical health. However, these powerful personal health habits can come at a dangerous cost when they involve medications. But which ones? Here’s what you should know about exercising outdoors and how using certain medications can make it dangerous.
Most people have a certain medicine that comes to mind when considering the risk of being outside: antibiotics. Antibiotics will routinely come with a warning to avoid prolonged or direct sunlight, and the reason for this is because of the increased photosensitivity in an antibiotic’s chemical reaction in the body. In short, antibiotics make the skin more susceptible to sunburns or excessive skin irritation.
While this is not always the case for people who use these antibiotics, it can be a side effect. As far as exercise is concerned, antibiotics are generally safe to use alongside a normal exercise routine. The risk is not necessarily the use of most antibiotics but the fact that our bodies are under stress from whatever infection it is trying to fight.
A class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones, which treat various infections, can weaken tendons, increasing the risk of injury during vigorous exercise. This increased risk can last up to six months after taking the antibiotic. Unfortunately, many people only associate the dangers of exercise or being outdoors with antibiotics. While it’s easy to think antibiotics are the only drugs that require caution in this regard, other prescription medications must be mentioned, especially those with the potential for abuse.
Drugs that can be potentially abused include benzodiazepines (benzos for short). These prescription drugs treat a wide range of symptoms, including anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines, including popular brands like Xanax and Valium, can intensify the body’s reaction to hot weather. This is partly because these drugs are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. Suppressing the interaction between the brain and the rest of the body can effectively control symptoms like anxiety. However, it can create a disconnect between how the body reacts and compensates for heat exposure.
This can also intensify when benzos are mixed with other CNS depressants, such as alcohol or sedatives like Ambien. In addition to heat sensitivity, benzos’ calming and sedation effects can decrease drive and stamina for exercise. This decrease in stamina could be dangerous if you are exercising alone, especially when it comes to weight lifting.
Another notorious drug class that relates to exercise and sunlight is opioids. Like benzos, opioids are CNS depressants but mainly treat pain relief. These powerful pain relievers include a wide variety of prescription and illicit drugs. Examples of widely known opioids include morphine, heroin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. Like benzos, opioids carry a black box warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meaning there is a serious risk of abuse and/or death. Two dangerous ways opioids suppress the central nervous system include the heart and the lungs. When it comes to exercise, these two organs are especially important, and the body’s reliance on the heart and lungs does not mix well with opioids. In fact, it can be quite dangerous to try exercising while under the influence of opioids, especially highly potent ones like fentanyl.
Opioids have an interesting relationship with sunlight, but not in the way you might expect. Sunlight is one of the most natural (and most important) ways for our bodies to receive Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is commonly linked to many things, including a possible increased risk for depressive symptoms. However, research is still lacking a direct link. However, recent years have seen a direct relationship between Vitamin D deficiency and opioid addiction. According to statistics, the majority of those who use opioids are deficient in Vitamin D. Outdoor activity can be a great way for our bodies produce Vitamin D, which can help to either decrease the likelihood of using opioids or curb opioid cravings.
Getting plenty of sunlight and exercise is important in pursuing physical and emotional wellness. On the other hand, drugs such as benzos and opioids can make these otherwise healthy habits potentially dangerous. But this should make us aware of just how powerful these drugs are. They can make healthy habits dangerous that steal our ability to form healthy habits altogether.
With this in mind, this should prompt a serious look at the negative impact of drugs like benzos and opioids. If you or someone you know is living with benzodiazepine or opioid addiction, it is important to reclaim healthy habits like exercise and outdoor activity. However, seeking help from a dedicated team of medical professionals can help ensure that your recovery plan is successful while avoiding the unexpected dangers that come with these drugs.
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