Kristen Bellows, 24, was prescribed Alesse, a low-dose oral contraceptive, at age 17. During the six years Bellows was taking the prescription drug, she hadn’t experienced any of the uncomfortable side effects listed on the information leaflet, such as nausea, vomiting or weight gain.

“I actually thought I was fairly symptom free,” Bellows said. “If you look at the common side effects, I really wasn’t experiencing any of them.”

But around the time she started the prescription drug, Bellows mood began to change. Prior to taking Alesse, Bellows was being treated for depression. But now she felt persistently angry and agitated, which would sometimes lead her to harm herself and others.

“It was basically like I had adrenaline pumping through my body all the time,” Bellows explained. “If you looked at me in a way that I perceived as threatening or said something I didn’t like, I would immediately go into a huge rage. It was really exhausting being that charged all the time.”

Bellows believed this aggression was the result of a psychiatric disorder, and after unsuccessful attempts to calm her fiery mood through counseling and relaxation techniques, she decided it was time to visit her general practitioner (GP) to talk about pursuing a chemical solution. But when Bellows mentioned to her GP she was taking Alesse, her appointment took a surprising turn.

The doctor informed Bellows that other patients taking Alesse were also experiencing aggression, which cleared up upon discontinuing the prescription drug. So Bellows also agreed to discontinue Alesse for two months to see how her body would respond.

“I didn’t have a problem coming off the Alesse, because I wanted to know if I could avoid using another medication to deal with this,” Bellows said. And sure enough, after being free from Alesse for three weeks, Bellows charged mood began to subside.

“Probably by the third week I noticed I wasn’t feeling charged anymore,” Bellows said. “I didn’t feel angry all the time.” Bellows returned to her GP after the two month mark for a follow-up appointment.

“When I came back to [the GP], she was like, ‘so how’s it going?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not angry anymore!’ Bellows said with excitement. “I was sort of angry that all my anger was caused by something that was just supposed to prevent pregnancy, and I guess I sort of felt stupid that I didn’t notice. But she explained that you don’t need to feel bad, you didn’t know and you went through all the right steps.”

Bellows reported her findings to RxISK.org, the first free independent website for researching and reporting prescription drug side effects.

“I suddenly felt validated that there was a website that understood that medication isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and that the medication you take can do severe things to your body,” Bellows said, recalling the first time she stumbled upon RxISK.

“When you experience certain side effects that are outside the common ones – especially if they are really scary ones – a lot of people don’t want to acknowledge it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening,” Bellows continued. “So it’s important to have a place where people can report their experiences, and then people can be educated on every single possible thing that could happen to them [on their prescription drug], so that we can make an educated decision in our health care.”

Bellows said filling out the RxISK report helped her to organizer her thoughts and understand her experience on Alesse.

“It was really good to get everything down in one place and, if I chose to, having something that I could then hand to my doctor or hand to whoever wanted to see it was also really good.”

For more information about prescription-drug-induced aggression visit the Violence Zone at RxISK.org

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