Drug Interactions

Drug Interactions | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Whether you’re on medication long-term or short-term, it’s important to be aware of potential interactions between medications that you have been prescribed by your physician – as well as possible interactions between prescribed medications and ones you would buy over-the-counter. What you also might not be aware of is the fact that certain foods can also interact with certain drugs, and vice versa. The effects of food and drug interactions can range from mild to severe – and, in some cases, if not taken seriously, could even lead to death.

One way to avoid potentially harmful drug interactions is to ensure you let your physician know exactly which medications you’re taking. While your family doctor may be aware of everything you’ve been prescribed, a doctor who is not your regular healthcare provider (such as a physician at a walk-in clinic) may not. By knowing which medications, your attending physician will have a better idea as to what medications they should (or shouldn’t) prescribe to you – including any medications you might be allergic to or have had interaction issues with in the past. Furthermore, it’s also important to have your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. By keeping everything in one place, they will be better able to provide you with the best knowledge possible about the medications you’re taking, as well as make you aware of any interactions between them. Your prescribing physician and pharmacist should also be aware if you are using any illicit drugs. Illicit drugs not only pose a significant risk to your health on their own…but that risk can be even greater when mixed with different types of medications.

Below is a list of some of the most common medications that are known for their interactions:

Narcotics: These particular drugs, which are used to treat moderate to severe pain, include (but aren’t limited to) medications such as Codeine, Oxycodone, and Morphine. They are not only known to be dangerous due to their addictive nature and the risk for overdose, but they also interact with other commonly prescribed medications such as antidepressants and medications prescribed to help you sleep. The most common interaction between these medications is increased sedation. Sedation can also be increased when you mix narcotics and alcohol.

Anticoagulants: Also known as blood thinners, these medications (such as Warfarin) are often prescribed to slow down the body’s process of making blood clots, which can be deadly. There are also several interactions with anticoagulant medications and other commonly prescribed medications, including aspirin-containing products, ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, acetaminophen, anti-fungal medications, as well as certain antibiotics which can lead to an increase in INR. Foods containing Vitamin K can also make anticoagulants less effective. Some of the most common foods that contain Vitamin K and should be avoided when taking a blood thinning medication include broccoli, spinach, kale, and cabbage. Other foods including cranberries, garlic, ginger and ginseng should also be avoided when on an anticoagulant, as they can increase the risk of bleeding.

Statins: One of the most commonly prescribed medications for treating high blood pressure, they, too, come with a list of both drug and food interactions. If you’re taking a medication to lower your blood pressure, it’s important to avoid medications that can increase your blood pressure – for example, ibuprofen or naproxen. If you’re in need of a pain reliever, Dr. Ghahary suggests trying acetaminophen instead, as this is less likely to increase your blood pressure. Some beverages, such as grapefruit juice and alcohol, can also increase the level of the drug in your system, which also increases your risk of developing intense drug-related side effects, such as muscle pain, liver damage, increased blood sugar levels, as well as neurological-related effects.

These are just a few of the more commonly known medications with interactions. If you have any concerns about a medication you have been prescribed, websites like Medscape have a drug interaction checker available. However, to ensure you get the most up-to-date and accurate information on interactions, you should always double check with your physician or pharmacy.