With more than half of all Americans regularly taking at least two prescriptions and 20 percent on five or more, it’s critical to know the potential dangers of drug interactions and what resources are available to prevent them. Taking any prescribed or over-the-counter drugs requires balancing benefits and potential side effects. It’s important that you work closely with your doctor to make those decisions. This becomes even more crucial if you’re taking more than one medication. Scientists are seeing progress in identifying potentially deadly drug interactions early on, so it’s critical to communicate regularly with your doctor and pharmacist about the medications you take. In the meantime, here are five steps you can take to maintain drug safety:
- Some medication combinations should be avoided, without question: There are certain medications you should never take if you already take another medication. The best way to know for sure is to ask your pharmacist or doctor. An interaction guide is a great start, but definitely consult a licensed health care provider for confirmation.
- Eliminate what’s unneeded: If your prescriptions are outdated or for a condition you no longer have, it’s not a good idea to keep the medications around, even if you think you might be able to use them in the future. Be sure to dispose of old prescriptions properly.
- Over-the-counter medications and vitamins count too: Just because you buy something at a drug store without a prescription doesn’t mean it’s always safe for you. Over-the-counter drugs contain labels that tell you what the drug is used for, how to take it and how to reduce the risk of drug interactions. If you have any questions, talk with the pharmacist before purchasing.
- Medication can interact with more than just other medications: The food you eat and pre-existing health conditions you have can also play a part in the functionality of medicine. For example, taking or eating caffeine while on a bronchodilator for asthma treatment can increase the chances of side effects like nervousness and a rapid heartbeat. And grapefruit juice has been shown to interact with several different drugs, especially statins — drugs commonly used to treat high cholesterol.
- Time things right: If you need to take two medications that aren’t supposed to be taken at the same time, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about whether it’s safe to take them at different times of day, like one in the morning and the other at night.
Looking for more info on how to take your prescriptions safely? Check out these posts:
- Do You Know the Two Kinds of Drug Side Effects?
- The Safe Way to Take Prescription Opioid Pain Medications
- Should You Be Taking a Daily Aspirin?
Photo credit: Victor