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Drugs that Sap Your Energy and Damage Mitochondria

Updated: May 22

want to run? keep your mitochondria in shape
Mitochondria is what gives you energy

Your seventh-grade science subject, "mitochondria," has been a bit of a buzzword lately in the wellness world. These are the unique, somewhat alien bacteria cells that your body relies on to make energy, or ATP. Called the "powerhouses of the cell," mitochondria is needed to power every cell in your body. Unfortunately, they are subject to damage, which causes free radicals and, subsequently, oxidative stress.

The two most energy-dependent organs are the brain and the heart and consequently, are most affected by the health of the mitochondria. Your actions can both help and hinder their overall health. Here's what hurts them:

  • Lack of sleep

  • Lack of exercise

  • Toxin accumulation

  • Oxidative damage / Free radical production

Prescription drugs do their damage usually via the oxidative/ free radical route, although this is not the only mechanism. While there are many drugs that injure mitochondria, not all drugs do the same amount of damage.


By far the worst of them may be the fluoroqunolones category of antibiotics (i.e. Cipro). Just one pill left me unable to raise my arms in 2022. It took me six months to recover. My story was not unheard of. A short course of three pills was enough to leave Dr. Mark Ghalili in a wheelchair for months, so he decided to devote his medical career to helping people damaged by fluoroquinolones, a group sometimes referred to as "Floxies."

drugs that damage your mitochondria
mitochondria under a microscope


Another major offender is general anesthesia. Older people are at higher risk of complications from anesthesia because their mitochondria is often damaged to begin with and can't sustain the additional injury. Young children's developing brains can also suffer from anesthetic exposure. In light of this, you might want to know your mitochondrial status before undergoing surgeries and talk with your anesthesiologist about options that are less damaging to the mitochondria.

While energy levels, endurance, and brain function might give one an idea of how their mitochondria is functioning, there are tests. A functional doctor can perform a buccal swab test from MitoSwab to determine mitochondrial function. Additionally, if you have certain conditions such as autism, ADHD, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Huntington's Diseases or schizophrenia, long covid or chronic fatigue you likely already have some level of mitochondrial dysfunction that could worsen from toxins or the above medications so extra care is warranted.


Aside from fluoride-based antibiotics and anesesia, most of the drugs on this list will not damage mitochondria so obviously and so quickly. Although you can see that damage accelerated when Tylenol overdose leads to liver failure, generally, it happens over time with frequent use. It causes small errors in the mitochondrial DNA and eventually dysfunction. So, take an NSAID if you really need it, but try not to fall into the habit of taking them frequently. There are other anti-inflammatory options, such as vitamin e, oregano oil, or maritime pine park.


Another issue is when energetics play a role. For example, depression has many root causes, but one of them is theorized to be mitochondrial dysfunction. In simplified terms, parts of the brain may not be receiving enough energy to power it optimally. A functional medicine practitioner would look to improve brain energetics, but the AMA approach is to quickly prescribe an SSRI for depression. In this situation, the SSRI could actually exacerbate the underlying condition by further damaging mitochondria. That's why trying to get the root cause and giving natural anti-inflammatories and mitochondrial enhancing supplements a brief trial is worth a shot. Other causes for depression could also be altered gut microbiota or mycotoxin exposure, neither of which traditional medications will help.


  1. Cipro and other fluoroquinolones

  2. Antibiotics (tetracycline, minocycline, chloramphenicol, aminoglycosides)

  3. General anesthetics such as Propofol (sevoflurane may be safer)

  4. Statin Drugs

  5. Aspirin

  6. Tylenol and NSAIDs

  7. Steroids

  8. SSRIs

This list includes many drugs that have saved a lot of lives and in certain situations, can't be avoided. We are not suggesting that you do. This list is just so you can make informed decisions on your health and understand the risk/reward ratio for any given medication, especially in the case of ongoing treatment.


The information provided on Goldilocks Wellness is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. The content presented on this website is not intended to be a substitute for personalized professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician regarding medical conditions.

The information and content on Goldilocks Wellness is based on current research, interviews with medical experts, personal experiences and general knowledge in the field of wellness. However, individual health conditions and medical treatments can vary greatly. Therefore, the information provided on this website may not be suitable for your specific circumstances or medical needs.


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