What Drugs Cause Nerve Damage?

Drugs can affect your nervous system in many ways.

Some drugs can cause nerve damage, which can range from minor to severe. This can happen even after only a single dose.

What Drugs Cause Nerve Damage?

The good news is that doctors can often treat these conditions. They may prescribe painkillers or other medications to relieve symptoms.

In addition, they may recommend lifestyle changes such as exercise, stress management, and nutrition.

This article will discuss the types of drugs that can cause nerve damage and what you can do about it.

What Are Nerves?

Nerves are long extensions of cells that carry messages between different parts of your body.

Your nerves consist of two main components: axons (the part of the nerve cell that carries signals) and dendrites (the part of the neuron that receives signals).

The axon branches into smaller fibers called myelin sheaths. These sheaths protect the axons and allow them to conduct electrical impulses faster.

Your brain controls all the muscles in your body through the spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

When you think about moving an arm, for example, this information travels along the motor neurons in your spinal cord.

From there, it moves down the length of your spinal column until it reaches your arms and hands.

It then travels up the outside of your arm and hand to reach the muscle fibers.

Your skin has its sensory nerves that detect touch, temperature, pressure, and pain. Sensory nerves connect with the spinal cord at the base of the skull.

What Is Nerve Damage?

Nerve damage occurs when nerves are damaged by disease, injury, infection, surgery, or medical treatment.

It can be temporary or permanent. When nerves become damaged, they no longer function normally.

They don’t send messages correctly to muscles and organs. As a result, these parts of your body do not perform their normal functions.

Permanent nerve damage usually results from an accident or illness.

For example, if you have diabetes and develop a foot ulcer, this could lead to nerve damage.

The same goes for having high blood pressure and developing a stroke.

Temporary nerve damage happens when nerves are injured during an operation or because of a problem with your body’s immune system.

A common example of this is shingles (herpes zoster). Shingles cause painful blisters on one side of the face.

These blisters eventually heal, but the virus remains in the nerve. Over time, the virus attacks the nerve and leads to nerve damage.

What Are Some Causes Of Nerve Damage?

The most common cause of nerve damage is injury.

This includes injuries caused by car accidents, sports injuries, work injuries, falls, and other events. Injuries can be minor or severe.

Minor injuries may not require medical treatment. Severe injuries need immediate attention from a health care provider.

Other causes of nerve damage include disease, cancer, medications, diabetes, and nutritional deficiencies.

Symptoms Of Nerve Damage

There are several signs of nerve damage. If you experience any of these, talk to your doctor right away.

The symptoms of nerve damage depend on what part(s) of the nervous system are affected.

Damage to the peripheral nervous system usually leads to numbness and tingling sensations in the extremities.

This includes the hands, feet, arms, legs, face, ears, tongue, lips, and genitals.

Damage to the central nervous system often results in problems with balance and coordination.

Common signs of this type of nerve damage include dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, and loss of bladder control.

Symptoms of nerve damage to the autonomic nervous system include changes in heart rate and blood pressure.

People with autonomic nerve damage often feel cold, sweaty, or clammy.

Other symptoms to look out for include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness in an arm or leg
  • Pain or tingling in an arm or leg that doesn’t go away
  • Difficulty walking or moving parts of your body
  • Problems with speaking or swallowing
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Changes in vision

Which Drugs Can Cause Nerve Damage?

Some drugs can cause nerve damage. Here are some examples:


These antibiotics include penicillin, ampicillin, cephalosporin, clindamycin, erythromycin, gentamicin, oxacillin, vancomycin, and others.

Blood Thinners

Blood thinners include warfarin, heparin, and others.

Diabetes Medicines

Diabetes medicines include metformin, insulin, glyburide, glipizide, rosiglitazone, pioglitazone, nateglinide, exenatide, liraglutide, sitagliptin, vildagliptin, albiglutide, semaglutide, and others.


Hormonal birth control pills include levonorgestrel, desogestrel, drospirenone, ethinyl estradiol, gestodene, lynestrenol, mircette, norethisterone enanthate, progesterone, prometrium, raloxifene, and others.


Immunosuppressants include azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate mofetil, tacrolimus, sirolimus, thalidomide, and others.

These drugs are used to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include celecoxib, diclofenac, etodolac, fenoprofen, flurbiprofen, ibuprofen (Motrin), ketorolac, mefenamic acid, nabumetone, naproxen, oxaprozin, phenylbutazone, piroxicam (Feldene), sulindac, tenoxicam, tiaprofenic acid, and others.

NSAIDs reduce inflammation and pain.


Vaccines include influenza vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine, rabies vaccine, varicella vaccine, yellow fever vaccine, and others.

Vaccines protect against diseases.

Illegal Drugs That Can Cause Nerve Damage

Illegal Drugs That Can Cause Nerve Damage

Illegal drugs also can cause nerve damage.

Examples include heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, ecstasy, hallucinogens, and others.

How Do Drugs Cause Nerve Damage?

Drugs can cause nerve damage in many ways.

For instance, they can affect how nerves function, which nerves are affected, and whether nerves recover after being damaged.

Nerves can become inflamed. When nerves get swollen, it can make them more sensitive to touch and pressure.

It also makes the area around the nerve feel sore. Some drugs can change the way nerves transmit messages throughout the body.

Certain drugs can interfere with how nerves repair themselves. Nerve damage can happen when a drug is taken too often or for too long.

This can be especially true if the person takes more than one type of drug at once.

Testing For Nerve Damage

If you think you may have nerve damage, see your doctor right away. He or she will ask about any symptoms you have.

Your doctor will also check your reflexes, muscle strength, sensation, and movement.

Your doctor may do tests to find out what’s causing your nerve problems. Tests that your doctor might use include:

Electrophysiology Test

A small amount of electricity is sent through the nerves to measure their response.

The results show whether there is a problem with the nerves or with how well they work.

Electrodiagnostic Study

An electrical current is sent through the nerves, and then the results are recorded on an electrocardiogram monitor.

This helps determine whether the nerves are working properly.


A wire electrode is placed near the nerves to record the activity of individual nerves.

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options for nerve damage caused by drugs. Treatment depends on the specific cause of the nerve damage.

For example, if you take a drug that causes nerve damage because it affects how nerves work, your doctor will likely tell you to stop taking the drug.

However, he or she may recommend other treatments first, such as:

  • Once you’ve stopped using the drug that caused nerve damage, your doctor may prescribe medications to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy can help improve muscle strength and coordination. Surgery may be needed to correct bone deformities or fix a spinal injury.

Preventing Drug-Induced Nerve Damage

You can prevent some types of nerve damage from occurring.

For example, you can avoid taking certain drugs that can potentially cause nerve damage. Some common examples include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Ritalin
  • Sedatives
  • Stimulants
  • Tranquilizers
  • Xanax
  • Zoloft
  • Zopiclone

Treatment For Nerve Damage

If you have nerve damage, it will take time to recover fully. Treatment depends on how badly damaged your nerves are.

You may need physical therapy, medication, surgery, or both. Your doctor will help determine which treatments are best for you.

If you suspect you have nerve damage, contact your doctor immediately.

Medications For Nerve Damage

Nerve damage can be treated with different kinds of medications. These include:

  • Antidepressant medicines
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Painkillers
  • Psychiatric medicines
  • Sleep aids

How To Prevent Nerve Damage From Other Causes

There are ways to prevent nerve damage. For example, if you play sports, wear protective equipment such as helmets and pads.

If you work in an environment that involves repetitive tasks, use proper tools and machines. Avoid situations where you could get hurt.

Is Nerve Damage Permanent?

Some nerve damage is permanent. It doesn’t go away after you stop taking drugs.

But most people who develop nerve damage due to drug use regain full function within 1 year.

In rare cases, nerve damage can lead to permanent disability.


Drugs can affect your nervous system.

They can cause nerve damage – which can lead to numbness, weakness, tingling, or loss of feeling in parts of your body.

It can also make it harder for you to move and complete your usual tasks.

Make sure to avoid or take care with drugs that are known to cause nerve damage and consult your doctor if you suspect you have nerve damage.

Tom Anderson