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Extreme Heat and Medications: Caution and Care During Periods of Intense Heat

PIONEER VALLEY – Government data indicates that more people die in heat-related weather events than in other types of extreme weather events, and this summer’s intensive heat waves have brought some of the hottest days ever recorded on Earth.

“Increased temperatures can affect the impact of medications,” said Dr. Negar Beheshti, Chief Medical Officer for MiraVista Behavioral Health Center and sister hospital, Devens-based TaraVista Behavioral Health Center.  “It is important for anyone on medications, including those which may be prescribed for a mental health diagnosis, to talk with their health care provider about how extreme temperatures and exposure to sun may change how they feel, cause certain side effects and what they can do during periods of increasingly hot weather to be safe.”

A board-certified psychiatrist for adults, children, and adolescents, Dr. Beheshti noted that heat-related complications have been found to be contributing factors in deaths where alcohol poisoning and drug overdose are the underlying causes.

“People are often unaware of the threat in body temperature from heat exposure until it is too late,” she said. “However, heat-related illnesses are considered preventable through education and awareness both on the personal and community level. Staying out of direct sunlight, drinking water regularly even when not thirsty, and being aware of one’s mental health state, and getting help if needed for oneself or another are all important preventative measures.”

More than 59 million people in the U.S. are currently under active National Weather Service extreme heat advisories, watches, and warnings with many states experiencing a Heat Index well into the 100s.

The National Weather Service defines The Heat Index as a measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored in with actual air temperature. The index between 90- and 103-degrees F comes with the warning classification of “extreme caution” as heat stroke, heat cramps or heat exhaustion are “possible” with prolonged exposure or activity.

Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for avoiding heat-related illnesses, especially during periods of extreme heat, include eating regular meals, avoiding strenuous activity, especially during the heat of the day, taking cool showers and calling 9-1-1 immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke, which include a body temperature of 103-degrees F or higher, a fast, strong pulse, and confusion.

To learn more, please visit Heat Health Awareness: Why it’s Important for Persons with Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Conditions, Caregivers and Health Care Providers | SAMHSA. For more information about MiraVista Behavioral Health Center, visit www.miravistabhc.care

MiraVista Behavioral Health Center opened in April of 2021 on the grounds of the former Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, Mass. MiraVista offers psychiatric care

services for both adults and adolescents, as well as an array of recovery rehabilitation programs including outpatient services such as substance use individual and group counseling, an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), court-ordered services, and outpatient Medication Supported Recovery and Massachusetts Impaired Driving programs.

MiraVista cares for thousands of individuals from across New England. MiraVista’s purpose is to provide effective, inspiring care for those challenged by mental health and substance use so they are empowered to lead fulfilling lives.