What Is Furosemide and What Are the Risks of Misuse?
High blood pressure is a serious condition that is common in the United States. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 75 million American adults have been diagnosed with the condition. If left untreated, it can damage the heart, raise the risk of stroke, and lead to other serious health conditions.
Unfortunately, some of the medications used to address heart disease can lead to other health issues, including addiction. One such drug is furosemide.
This article will explain what furosemide is, how it’s misused, and the effects and risks of furosemide misuse.
What Is Furosemide?
Furosemide is a prescription medication that is used to treat swelling from fluid retention associated with certain diseases, such as congestive heart disease, high blood pressure, liver or kidney disease, or other conditions. It is a diuretic that helps the kidneys increase the flow of urine.
The cardiovascular system is meant to absorb some fluctuations in pressure. When people engage in a strenuous activity and the heart works harder, blood moves through the body very quickly. That speed comes with an increase in pressure. Just as a garden hose feels firm when the water from the spigot is on and running, and it feels slack when the water is turned off, blood vessels are also meant to tense and relax when flow levels change.
People with high blood pressure don’t experience these episodes of relaxation. Their blood vessels are always taut and tense, even when these people are at rest.
Furosemide helps because it causes the kidneys to expel unneeded water. To return to the hose metaphor, this drug helps to turn the spigot and slow down the flow of fluid through the body. That reduced volume also reduces pressure placed on blood vessels.
Furosemide is an effective therapy, but it’s not a cure for high blood pressure. People who take it must continue to take it (or a similar type of therapy) in order to keep high blood pressure under control.
Why Do People Misuse Furosemide?
Healthy people shouldn’t need diuretics like furosemide in order to regulate the work of the kidneys. These organs are designed to do their work efficiently without the help or prompting of outsiders. However, some individuals may misuse this medication for a number of reasons, including:
- Weight loss. Wrestlers and other athletes who are required to maintain a specific weight may appreciate the ability to reduce the water weight they’re carrying.
- To “flush” their systems. Some athletes who use substances to boost their performance may use water pills to remove traces of the drugs from their bloodstreams.
- To enhance the performance of drugs. Taking water pills can help some athletes to get a bigger punch from other drugs they take.
- Feeling the effects of illicit drugs longer. There are some forms of drugs that stay in the body longer when blood volume is low. Using furosemide could help those drugs to do their work longer.
Additionally, people who have eating disorders may also use and abuse diuretics like furosemide during the course of their disease. For someone who has an eating disorder, seeing lower numbers on a scale paired with seeing a smaller body in the mirror can be enticing. Someone who sees success one time with the drug might be tempted to misuse the drug again to bring about the same changes.
The Risks of Furosemide Misuse
The kidneys are the body’s filters. Every minute of every day, they work hard to remove impurities from the body. They also strike a balance between water and salt within the body. Kidneys can, and often do, recover after an injury. But the damage furosemide abuse can do is significant, and there are times when it cannot be reversed. People who misuse this drug for long periods may be left with kidneys that simply cannot remove toxins.
Even when taken at the advised dosage, furosemide can cause serious side effects. Those side effects can include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Light sensitivity.
People who take the drug to treat high blood pressure are advised to visit their doctors regularly, so the medical team can ensure that the medication is working properly and not causing unusual side effects or health issues.
People who misuse the drug may take two or three times the advised dose, simply because they want the effects of the drug and may not be aware of the dangers. When taken in higher doses for longer periods of time, significant amount of damage to bodily systems can occur.
Furosemide has been associated with overdose risk. People who take too much of this drug and overwhelm the body’s natural processes may experience such a violent, sudden health issue that they simply collapse. As Mayo Clinic points out, a furosemide overdose is considered a medical emergency.
In a hospital setting, someone who is experiencing a furosemide overdose can be given fluids to replace what’s been lost through the kidneys. Doctors can use other medications to slow down and regulate the heart rate. They can also use supportive therapies to ensure that the person stays warm, calm, and hydrated until the crisis passes.
Risks of Combining Furosemide and Other Drugs
Risks of furosemide are compounded when the drug is mixed with other drugs. For example, Medscape lists 164 drugs that have been associated with health risks when used in combination with furosemide. Doctors are encouraged to monitor their patients closely when they are taking furosemide along with medications, such as:
Reactions can typically be attributed to kidney overwork. Furosemide causes the kidneys to work so hard to remove water from the body that the filtration system breaks down. These other drugs can build up within the body, especially as the blood volume drops, and that can lead to secondary overdoses.
Furosemide can also cause some other drugs to leave the body too quickly, and that can cause health effects as well. Someone taking a medication to help with depression, for example, may not get the full impact of that medication while misusing furosemide.
Furosemide Withdrawal Syndrome
Healing from misuse of furosemide begins with medical detox. While simply stopping use of the drug may seem smart and reasonable, prolonged misuse of the drug may have resulted in the development of tolerance and dependence on the medication. Stopping use of the drug rapidly could cause significant health issues.
In a study of 141,810 people performed via eHealthMe, researchers found that women with pain who take OxyContin and furosemide tend to experience a withdrawal syndrome. But anyone who misuses the drug for a long enough period of time could experience problems that benefit from medical detox treatment.
Working with a medical professional is key. Healthcare professionals can also watch over how a person is feeling during the medical detox process. Someone who experiences severe paranoia or depression during treatment may need a revised treatment plan. When you participate in a medical detox that help can be given at the right time.
Getting Help for Furosemide Misuse
People who misuse furosemide can learn to live without the drug. When the medical detox process is complete, continued treatment is often recommended. While medical detox can help to remove the drug from the tissues of the body, the person’s habits and emotions may continue to call out for the drug. The key at this stage of recovery is to help the person build up systems that support a life of sobriety.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that effective treatment for prescription drug abuse begins with therapy that is specific to that type of drug. People who misuse furosemide in concert with other substances, or who have co-occurring mental health disorders, such as exercise addiction or eating disorders, would benefit from therapy to address the underlying causes of prescription drug misuse. Therapy can also help the person to build habits that support a healthy lifestyle. When the urge to pick up drugs appears, the person can have new skills at the ready to deal with those urges, so the risk of relapse drops.
Support groups can also help to support the sobriety process. While there is no specific support group for furosemide abuse, there are support groups that target the abuse of prescription drugs. Here, people have an opportunity to talk to and learn from other people who have also struggled with addiction. They have a chance to work individually with someone in active recovery, to engage in social activities with people who are committed to sobriety, and find a community of peers.
Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment in Orange County
If you or someone you love is struggling with dependence on or addiction to prescription drugs, we can help. At our Orange County drug rehab, our team of specialists use evidence-based effective treatments to help people achieve meaningful recovery.
Contact our admissions navigators at to learn about our different levels of care to find one that’s right for you. They can also answer your questions about how to pay for rehab, making travel arrangements, or help you start rehab admissions.