What you don't know about your drugs can hurt you

The average drug lists 70 "official" side effects these days -- and you'd need a magnifying glass, a medical dictionary, and a lot of free time if you ever wanted to read them all.

And if nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, "an unusual urge to gamble" (actual drug side effect), and 66 other possibilities aren't exciting enough, I've got news for you: That's barely the opening chapter.

The average prescription med actually offers FIVE TIMES MORE side effects than what's on the label, according to a new analysis.

How's THAT for exciting?

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers created a computer program to sift through more than 4 million side effects on 1,332 common meds reported to the FDA's Adverse Event Reporting System database.

In other words, it used information the government already has... but doesn't actually know what to do with. (Not that that's a surprise!)

This program didn't just spit out every side effect. It didn't even take it on faith that all 4 million reports were caused by the drugs themselves.

Instead, it grouped the patients reporting those side effects together based on things like lifestyle and medical history, and then used that information to spot trends -- in other words, REAL side effects.

It didn't just find a few more here and there. It found an average of 329 new side effects for EACH of the 1,332 drugs under study -- and that's in addition to the 70 "official" side effects.

That alone is enough for a day's work, even for a computer... but the machine didn't stop there.

It also picked up on 1,301 new drug interactions among people taking more than one med at a time -- including a previously unreported death risk for anyone unlucky enough to mix SSRI antidepressants with common BP meds.

Of course, if you're on prescription meds, you've probably already learned the hard way that side effects aren't limited to what's on the label. And if you haven't, here's your chance: Quit while you're ahead.