5 Common Drugs That Could Increase Blood Pressure

You may be taking a medication that lowers the effectiveness of your blood pressure drugs. Several popular over-the-counter (OTC) remedies do that.

Proper blood pressure control is important for your health. So it's wise to key an eye on your numbers if you're taking anything that could cause a problem.

This article looks at five drugs that can make your hypertension (high blood pressure) worse.

1

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Advil in palm of hand

frankieleon / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most popular over-the-counter (OTC) medicines in the world. They're used to:

  • Treat headaches
  • Reduce fever
  • At higher doses, alleviate pain and inflammation

While NSAIDs are typically safe, prolonged use can raise your blood pressure.

Long-term use has also been linked to changes in kidney function. The kidneys play a key role in blood pressure regulation.

OTC NSAIDs include:

Ask your healthcare provider about pain-relief options that may be safer for you.

NSAIDs can cause your body to retain sodium and water. Over time, that can lead to increased blood pressure.

2

Nasal Decongestants

A woman sneezing and blowing her nose

Tom Merton / Getty Images

Decongestants slow the production of mucus, which can clog breathing passages.

They do this by constricting blood vessels in your nose and sinuses. That opens airways and makes you feel less stuffed up from colds or allergies.

Most decongestants contain either:

Those are both stimulants known to increase blood pressure.

When used short-term, decongestants are largely safe and effective. But overuse may raise blood pressure and undermine your treatment.

Look for non-stimulant decongestants, which may be just as effective for certain nasal conditions.

3

Multi-Symptom Cold and Flu Remedies

Woman holding cough syrup on a spoon

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Dozens of combination pills, syrups, and tablets are marketed for cold and flu symptoms. Each has a different blend of similar ingredients. These include:

The combined effect of these drugs is constricted blood vessels and fluid retention. They can cause short-term blood pressure increases and make your treatment less effective.

4

Hormonal Birth Control

Woman holding birth control pills

PhotoAlto / Getty Images

Virtually all hormonal birth control pills, patches, and devices can raise blood pressure.

Blood-vessel constriction is a common side effect of these products. They often have a larger effect on women who smoke, are overweight, or are over age 35.

Oral contraceptives with lower-dose estrogen may have lesser effects on blood pressure. If you still have a problem while taking these, you may need to consider other forms of birth control.

Increased Monitoring

Not all women are affected by hormonal birth control. But if you have hypertension, your healthcare provider will likely want to monitor you closely. Ideally, you should get checked every six to 12 months.

5

Antidepressant Drugs

Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft antidepressant tablets

Jonathan Nourok / Getty Images

Antidepressants change the activity of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) tied to mood. They include:

These drugs increase your levels of adrenaline and other stimulating hormones. That can increase blood pressure.

Dopamine is even used in emergencies to raise critically low blood pressure.

Several antidepressant classes are linked to increased blood pressure, such as:

Ups and Downs of MAOIs

*MAOIs alone can lower your blood pressure. But they can lead to dangerously high blood pressure when combined with:

  • Aged and fermented foods (e.g., sauerkraut, cured meats, soy sauce, and tofu)
  • Acetaminophen or aspirin
  • The heart medicine dobutamine
  • The antibiotic isoniazid
  • Many stimulants

Summary

Drugs that increase blood pressure either constrict blood vessels, increase fluid retention, or raise hormone levels. Use care with NSAIDs, decongestants, combination cold and flu medicines, hormonal birth control, and antidepressants.

A Word From Verywell

If you take any of these OTC drugs, talk to your healthcare provider about your risk of hypertension. You may want to check your blood pressure at home until you know how the medication affects you.

If your blood pressure is high, you may need to switch drugs, lower your dosage, or add/increase the dosage of an anti-hypertensive drug.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much can OTC medication raise your blood pressure?

    If your blood pressure is in the normal range, OTC medication should not increase it enough to be a concern.

    If you normally have high blood pressure, though, OTC medication may take it to a dangerous level. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have high blood pressure and need to take OTC medication that may raise it.

  • What are normal blood pressure numbers?
    • Normal blood pressure range = below 120/below 80 mmHg
    • Prehypertensive range = between 120-139/between 80-89
    • Hypertensive range = 140 or higher/90 or higher
    • Hypertensive crisis = above 180/above 120


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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Kidney Foundation. Watch out for your kidneys when you use medicines for pain.

  3. American Academy of Family Physicians. Decongestants: OTC relief for congestion.

  4. American Heart Association. High blood pressure and women.

  5. Calvi A, Fischetti I, Verzicco I, et al. Antidepressant drugs effects on blood pressureFront Cardiovasc Med. 2021;8:704281. doi:10.3389/fcvm.2021.704281

  6. American Heart Association. Understanding over-the-counter (OTC) medications and high blood pressure.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure symptoms and causes.