There is currently no prescription drug treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), but it is common for individuals with CFS to self-medicate with a variety of different drugs. Since CFS patients may have trouble finding relief for their symptoms, there is a danger of becoming addicted to drugs such as prescription painkillers.
What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
CFS presents with a variety of complicated symptoms that can begin with a flu-like illness that never completely goes away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some researchers believe CFS is caused by a virus or immune system response.
A person may be diagnosed with CFS if he has symptoms in the following two categories:
1. Mysterious, sustained fatigue that lasts for six months or longer and is not due to continued exertion; is not largely alleviated by rest, and significantly hampers activity levels.
2. Four or more of the following symptoms are present for six months or more:
- Impaired memory or concentration
- Extreme continued exhaustion and sickness following physical or mental activity
- Unproductive sleep
- Multi-joint pain without swelling or redness
- Headaches of a new type or severity
- Tender cervical or axillary lymph nodes
Prescription Drugs and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Patients suffering from CFS are more likely to use any medication than similar individuals not suffering from fatigue, according to a CDC-sponsored study of CFS patients in Georgia. The medications include everything from cold medicine to prescription painkillers. The CDC recommends that physicians pay close attention to the types and amounts of medications used by their patients.
The study authors found CFS patients are likely to use the following types of medications:
- Muscle relaxants
- Cold/sinus medications
CFS patients are more likely to be sensitive to medications than other people. Physicians are advised to prescribe low doses and limit the number of overall medications. It also is important to watch out for drug interactions, since many medications taken by CFS patients may make their symptoms worse.