As people age, they begin to take more medications. They may take upwards of ten formulations a day – everything from high blood pressure medication to calcium. Not only is it important to remember to take the medication as prescribed, it is important to know which medications to take in the morning, at night, with food or milk, or on an empty stomach.
Drugs interact …
… with food and beverages. What do chocolate, aged cheese, sausage, pepperoni and salami have in common? When eaten by people who take monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors used to treat depression, these foods may cause dangerously sharp increases in blood pressure. Some foods or beverages delay or decrease the absorption of the medication, or may enhance absorption of a medication and cause an adverse reaction. Common examples include:
Grapefruit juice – It should not be taken with certain blood pressure-lowering drugs or drugs that prevent rejection of organ transplants. Grapefruit juice increases the absorption making side effects more likely. It also increases the absorption of some anti-anxiety, anti-malaria, and insomnia drugs.
Licorice – This childhood snack food should not be eaten by a person who is taking digoxin. It may increase the toxicity. It may also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure and diuretic drugs.
Caffeine – Common in chocolate and coffee, caffeine can increase the effect of stimulant drugs such as Ritalin (methylphenidate), and decrease the effect of sedative-hypnotics such as Ambien (zolpidem).
… with dietary supplements. With more Americans reaching for dietary supplements, we need to be aware of interactions. Supplements including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs or botanicals can impair a medication’s effectiveness.
St. John’s Wort – can reduce the amount of medication that can be absorbed into the blood stream.
Vitamin E – can increase the effects of blood-thinning medications and increase the risk of bleeding.
Ginseng – can enhance the bleeding effects of drugs like heparin, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen.
Ginkgo Biloba – can decrease the effectiveness of anticonvulsant medications.
… with other drugs. It is not uncommon to walk out of the doctor’s office with one or more prescriptions. The more medications, prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC), a person takes, the higher the rate of adverse drug reactions – especially if a person takes four or more different medications.
Antihistamines cause the most common drug-to-drug interactions. When combined with sedatives, tranquilizers, high blood pressure medication or depression medication, antihistamines increase the depressant effects (such as sleepiness) and could affect concentration levels. This could be dangerous if someone is driving or operating equipment.
Antihistamines also can increase a person’s blood pressure and increase heart rate when used with blood pressure medication.
Make sure you consult your physician or pharmacists about the specific interactions possible with your medication.