You’ve heard of cases where celebrities die from dangerous drug combinations; Elvis Presley had 10 drug combinations in his system. But combined drug intoxication can happen to anyone if they are not careful.
A few years ago, the death of a man in New South Wales after his regular anti-psychotic medications, including clozapine, epilim, clonazepam and sodium valproate, were mixed with a high dose of Panadeine Forte, called for better drug toxicity education.
It’s easy if you’re taking just one type of medication but what happens if you are on a lot of medication? The situation can get more complicated when new medication is added on top of the ones you already have and let’s not forget supplements too. At the same time, you should also be aware of some food and drug combinations that are not recommended…
Grapefruit and Statins
It’s actually dangerous to take grapefruit with Statin medications such as Lipitor or Crestor. Grapefruit juice competes with the enzyme that is directly responsible for breaking down statin medications in your body. The enzyme, CYP3A4, lives in your liver and small intestine. Combined with grapefruit juice, the result is higher levels of the drug in your bloodstream and that can worsen side effects like muscle pain and weakness. “On statin medications, it is best to avoid to grapefruit juice completely,” says Stefanie Ferreri, a clinical professor at the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
Antidepressants & Methadone
“Antidepressants and methadone together can be a real problem,” says Dr Russell Jenkins of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in the US. “Each drug can increase the sedative effect of the other.”
Coumadin & Ginseng OR Coumadin & Aspirin
The blood thinner Coumadin, taken by people with blood clots or with heart valve conditions, shouldn’t be mixed with ginseng, says Jenkins. Nor should it be used with aspirin, says Matthew Grissinger, RPh, a pharmacist and education safety analyst at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. “It’s an additive effect,” he says of the Coumadin-aspirin combination. “It increases your chance of internal bleeding or, if you get a cut on your finger, the blood won’t clot as quickly.”
Blood pressure medication & oral nasal decongestants
If you have elevated blood pressure, even if you’re on medication to control the pressure, you should not take over-the-counter oral nasal decongestants without talking first to your pharmacist or doctor, says Matthew. He says that the preparations can raise your pressure.
Orange Juice & Antihistamines
Orange juice is known for it’s health benefits but did you know that citrus foods can challenge how your body absorbs antihistamines? Orange juice can block the work of proteins that transport allergy medicines around your body, blocking absorption and reducing the drug’s effectiveness.
Kale, Licorice, & Blood-Thinners
If you’re on blood-thinning drugs like Coumadin or WarfarinKale, stay away from collard greens, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts as the combination can cause a problem. Green leafy vegetables are rich in Vitamin K and can increase the risk of bleeding. And since Vitamin K naturally helps blood to clot, it can work against a blood-thinner’s job in your body.
Black licorice & Coumadin
Here’s another one if you’re on a blood-thinner. If you see the words “licorice extract” or “licorice root extract” on the ingredients, stay away. Black licorice can interfere with Coumadin it breaks down Coumadin too quickly and can increase your risk for blood clots.
How to avoid dangerous drug combinations?
1. If your doctor prescribes new medication, inform him on the medication and supplements that you are currently on. Keep a copy of the script or a list of meds in your bag handy.
2. Before taking new supplements, ask the pharmacist if it will counteract with the medication and other supplements which you might be taking.
3. Make sure you read and understand the instructions your doctor has given you on medication intake. If not, don’t be shy to ask again and double check.