Preventing Niacin Side Effects

November 12, 2012

Preventing Niacin Side Effects

Niacin is also known as nicotinic acid or by the brand names Niacor or Slo-Niacin. There are two main types of niacin – immediate release and extended release. People with high cholesterol are often prescribed niacin. Like any other drug, niacin affects different people in different ways. Some people develop niacin side effects. These can be common, uncommon or serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. But there are ways to help prevent niacin side effects.


Minor niacin side effects include hot flashed, skin flushing red or pink and itchy skin. These side effects should go away in one or two weeks when your body has adjusted to the new medication. Patients living in Europe can take a drug called laropiprant to prevent skin flushes. Unfortunately this drug is not available in the United States.

Taking Aspirin

Some people can avoid niacin skin flushes or itching by taking an aspirin at least 15 minutes before taking niacin or nicotinic acid. Some people get better results taking aspirin a half hour before niacin. Always check with your doctor before taking aspirin or any other new drug to be sure it will not interfere with any other medical conditions or medications that you may have.

Avoid Hot Drinks

Some niacin side effects can be avoided by not drinking any hot beverages within a quarter of an hour before or after taking a dose of niacin. Cold or lukewarm drinks are fine. You should also avoid alcoholic beverages in this time period and not use an alcoholic drink to chase down a niacin tablet or capsule.

Don’t Take Niacin All At Once

Are you taking the immediate release form of niacin (not extended release)? If you are able to, split the pills in half. Instead of taking one pill daily, take two halves of a pill 12 hours apart. If you have never taken immediate release niacin before, ask your doctor if you need to gradually work up to your recommended daily dose by taking half pills for a few days instead of just popping the entire pill.

Avoiding Nausea

Nausea or upset stomach can happen to some people taking niacin. You can help reduce or eliminate the nausea by taking the niacin with food. If you cannot eat before taking the niacin, take the niacin with a glass of milk. The milk should be substantial enough to cushion your stomach from any irritation niacin can cause.

Get Your Liver Checked

Before you start niacin, you may have to get your liver tested to see how well it is functioning. You should also regularly take these liver function tests while you are taking niacin, especially if you need to take large doses of it. Liver damage is one of the rarest of niacin side effects, but it is one of the most serious. If you accidentally take an overdose or too much niacin, tell your doctor. You may need a liver function test. Make sure niacin is kept in places where pets and small children cannot reach. If they do somehow get into your niacin, contact a veterinarian or doctor immediately.

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