What to Know about Medicine Interactions

A bad combination can lead to a medicine making you sick instead of better.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, almost 40 percent of the U.S. population takes four or more prescriptions.

Medications, for all intents and purposes, are chemicals. Sometimes chemicals react with other chemicals.

There are different types of medicine interactions.

Interactions with food and beverages

In a bad interaction, foods or drinks can cause delayed, decreased, or enhanced absorption of the medicine.

These are some common food and beverage interactions to know:

  • Grapefruit juice blocks enzymes that metabolize blood pressure medications and makes many other medicines ineffective.
  • Milk lessens the absorption of antibiotics.
  • Alcohol can increase the effects of some drugs and decrease the effects of others.
  • Chocolate can make sedatives ineffective.

Interactions with dietary supplements

Some herbal supplements and vitamins can changes the effects of your medications. For example, St. John's Wort affects the level of liver enzymes in your body, which, in turn, reduces the concentration of some medications in the blood stream.

Interactions with other drugs

In some cases, if a medication has strong negative interactions with other common medications, a warning will be issued. 

Other cases of drug interactions deal with side effects. For example, over-the-counter antihistamines can cause drowsiness. When taken with another medication that also causes drowsiness, you could suffer from impaired focus and concentration.

How to avoid interactions

Keep yourself healthy and your medicines effective by:

  • Reading labels carefully
  • Learning about the drug warnings before your take the medicine
  • Asking your doctor or pharmacist about possible interactions
  • Telling your doctor about the supplements and vitamins you take
  • Using one pharmacy for all of your medicines
  • Keeping a record of your all your prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and dietary supplements

For more information about drug interactions, visit our online healthy library. Do you need a physician referral? Use our online Find a Physician service or call our Physician Referral Line at 1-855-296-6265.

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