Avoid Bad Drug Interactions By Following These Steps
It is a little too easy to assume that a pill is a wonder drug where nothing can go wrong. Patients receive a prescription, take the pills and expect to see improvements. Many cases aren’t all that black and white. One major problem with prescription medication is the risk of drug interactions.
There is a long journey between swallowing a pill and it affecting the illness or condition. That pill needs to work its way through the digestive system, into the bloodstream and onward to the area affected. The chemicals need to reach the problem intact for the best results.
Unfortunately, there are some potential problems and interactions along the way. A choice of breakfast may limit the potential of the pills as they enter the stomach. Other drugs and supplements can interfere with processes or heighten them to dangerous levels.
The solution for patients is to understand better the medication prescribed and to avoid any unnecessary risks of interactions. Some interactions within the body aren’t possible to control, such as enzymes. But some actions and choices can decrease the risk of drug interactions, therefore increasing the effectiveness of the medication.
This guide looks at the following areas of interest:
- Drugs interacting with other drugs on a prescription
- The importance of understanding instructions and dosages on any form of medication
- Drugs interacting with elements of our diet
- Why doctors always warn patients against drinking too much alcohol
- Drugs interacting with supplements
- The importance of understanding the formula of a supplement
- Education and consultations with pharmacists and doctors
Drugs Interactions With Other Drugs
There is the expectation that a drug will always do the job advertised. But, patients on a cocktail of different pills may find that one form of medication affects the other. There are many various examples of this. One patient may receive a prescription for the antibiotic metronidazole following infection, while still using the blood thinner Warfarin.
This could lead to significant problems as the former inhibits enzymes needed for the latter. The result here could be severe bleeding. Elsewhere, some women may find that the anti-seizure drug phenytoin reduces the effectiveness of their contraceptives.
There is also the chance that two very different drugs may have similar results. The secondary effects of one could cause drug interactions with the other. One example here is basic pain relief like aspirin or ibuprofen. These drugs can have anti-clotting effects, which make them problematic with blood thinners like Warfarin. As this guide will show, many foods and drugs can imitate or inhibit this blood-thinning drug, so patients need to read the bottle carefully.
It is vital that patients fully understand the medication they use. This means taking the time to understand the following:
- the actual function of the medication
- the precise form and formula of the drug
- the dosage required and any specific instructions
- the potential for side effects
Understand Your Own Medications
Patients don’t always know all they should know about the drugs they take. Doctors can prescribe something and perhaps give a vague indication of what it will do. There is a difference between knowing that a drug is pain medication and knowing precisely what it targets and how it works.
The same is true for any antibiotic, anti-anxiety medication or anything else that is easily generalized. Patients aren’t always told the told the details about the journey of illness and recovery. This could lead to problems further down the line.
One potential problem here comes when patients deal with doctors, paramedics or other specialists that don’t know their medical history. At this point, it isn’t enough to say that they are antibiotics because specialists need the specifics to avoid drug interactions. Patients, therefore, cannot rely on the doctor alone to keep track of the precise list of medications and dosages.
A mispronunciation or misspelling could also confuse. This is also a reason why it helps to work with the same pharmacist with every prescription. Pharmacists can keep better records of medical histories and drug use. These professionals should also be able to tell if there are potential drug interactions on a wider prescription. Pharmacists can also give further information on the risk of side effects with certain medication.
Then there is the precise dosage required with this prescription. Some are safe enough to take before breakfast, while others need something lining the stomach first. Some pills may require just the one tablet per day, while others only work with three pills spaced out across the day.
There is also the risk that a missed pill and infrequent use could affect the effectiveness of the drug. Patients should also be aware that some drinks can inhibit the impact of the drug. For example, it isn’t always a good idea to have morning medication with a bowl of cereal or yogurt because of potential interactions. On that note, there are a few different drug interactions related to food.
Drug Interactions And Food
Drug on drug interactions is an important part of this problem. It is crucial that doctors prescribe the right combination of drugs in a responsible manner. Food and drug interactions are also problematic for many patients. Doctors should always warn their patients of any potential dietary risks associated with a drug.
This threat should be clear to patients during the consultation, but also via written guidelines with the prescription. Some food interactions are more common than others. The following are two items that many American drug users need to be aware of.
As seen above, dairy products can be a problem for those trying to follow a strict regime of medication. Calcium-rich produce, especially milk, can inhibit the absorption of some drugs and supplements. For example, those taking iron-based treatments shouldn’t do so with a Latte or Cappuccino cup of coffee in the morning.
Many doctors will always advise patients to cut down on alcohol. But, there are situations where the substance can hinder medication. For example, alcohol can cause drowsiness. This sleepiness could be a dangerous problem for those already drowsy from sleeping pills, antihistamines, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.
Alcohol is also known to inflame the lining of the esophagus and stomach, which is problematic when taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Then there are the issues with alcohol and antibiotics. If in doubt, patients should avoid alcohol altogether until they finish their course of drugs.
This another drink that has a surprising number of health warnings for those on prescription medication. Citrus fruits and acidic juices with Vitamin C contents are an issue for the effectiveness of some drugs. Grapefruit juice appears to be the worst culprit. This juice can inhibit an enzyme that clears statins in some prescription drugs. This build-up can lead to an overdose, which then causes muscle pain and other issues.
Drug Interactions And Supplements
Many Americans take supplements as part of their healthcare regime. Some users do so under the guidance of medical professionals due to deficiencies and other conditions. Others will choose over the counter options themselves in an attempt to improve symptoms.
Some supporters prefer the natural approach of supplements over prescription medication. Critics would rather people stick to more precise medication and avoid supplements. Either way, there is still the risk that even the most common supplements could interfere with medication.
Fish oil supplements are one of the more popular options these days. It is easy to walk into stores and pick up a bottle of cheap capsules. Many users opt for these supplements as a way of potentially improving brain function and cognitive impairments. Therefore, there are links between fish oils and seniors.
However, there is also a link between fish oils and blood thinning. This means that patients already on warfarin may suffer from severe bleeding if they supplement with fish oils.
Iron supplements are often popular with those that suffer from low energy. But, iron fortification is increasingly common with some foods. The use of these iron tablets can also reduce the impact of medications for under-active thyroids. Therefore, those on thyroid medication that aren’t prescribed complementary iron products shouldn’t seek them out themselves.
This spice is another important supplement to mention here because it has grown in popularity recently. Turmeric undoubtedly has plenty of potential health benefits when added to a diet in small amounts. Too much of this substance can cause stomach problems, which may, in turn, affect the absorption of the medication. The turmeric supplements can help but aren’t necessary for those that enjoy drinks with added turmeric or lots of Indian food.
Chinese substances have a long history of use in Eastern culture. Many revere this way of life as a more natural, healthier option to prescribed drugs. But, there are some links between Chinese medicine and liver damage. A lack of standardization and regulation also poses risks, especially with levels of toxin and heavy metals.
Understanding What Goes Into A Supplement
The use of supplements is very much like the use of medication. Users still need to be careful about the precise formulas, names and the dosage that they take. Some consumers may not think that the dosage of supplements matters as much as one on a prescription drug. There are many of the same risks involved. It is possible to overdose on specific elements within a supplement if it is already prevalent in a diet.
For example, multivitamins with added calcium are great for those with deficiencies, but not necessarily for those with normal levels. People that eat a lot of dairies and drink plenty of milk probably don’t need extra calcium at all. There are similar concerns with strong daily fish oil supplements and an extra portion of fish during the week.
Finally, if a bottle of supplements strictly says no more than one a day, users should never take more. These supplements are carefully crafted health products just like prescription drugs. Users cannot mess around with them.
Then there is the issue of the precise formula of the supplements. Some consumers may assume that a fish oil supplement or capsicum supplement just contains a dosage of that substance. That isn’t necessarily the case. Some products may state that the 100% natural and pure with no extra ingredients – and this may be the truth.
But, there are sure to be many others that add other ingredients along the way. That is why it is so important to read the labels and better understand a product. This is another issue with Chinese medicine. These products often have a worrying lack of information on the bottles.
Education And Consultation
Many of the problems experienced with drug interactions are avoidable with the right education. The more that patients know about a drug and its impact, the better equipped they are to avoid dangerous interactions. Patients cannot incur too much blame over these interactions with food and other supplements if they didn’t know the risk. There are two sides to this education on the subject.
Patients should take the time to read any literature that comes with a new drug, or at least the basic instructions on the bottle. Doctors should also take the time to offer clear information on precisely what the drug does, and what not to take when using it. It should all be as simple as a basic pamphlet to read and leave in a kitchen drawer. This access to information also means making the most of consultation times with doctors and pharmacists.
The more that everyday users know about their prescription medication, the better the results. It all sounds quite simplistic when talking about some basic interactions and things to avoid. But, it is too easy for small details about drug interactions to get lost among other elements of a prescription or prognosis.
The better the information, the better the chance of avoiding bad drug interactions with other medication, supplements or food items. This, in turn, should offer great safety and peace of mind for patients.