Many people take more than one medication, see more than one doctor or have more than one health problem — that makes it essential that you and your doctor are aware of all the medications you take and understand any possible drug interactions that may occur.
When seeing your doctor, bring all your medications or a list of medications you take.
It is very important to read the information given by the pharmacist when picking up your medication. This information can describe possible drug interactions, which can have several harmful consequences.
- Drug and drug interactions: when two or more drugs interact with each other, such as a sleeping pill (a sedative) taken with an allergy medication (an antihistamine).
- Drug and food/beverage interactions: food can interfere with drug absorption.
- Drug and condition interactions: taking the decongestant Sudafed when one has high blood pressure can significantly raise blood pressure.
- Drug and over-the-counter-medication interactions: taking an antacid can block other medication from being absorbed in the stomach.
One common drug-drug interaction is taking an antibiotic and the effect it has on birth control pills. Medical literature says that antibiotics pose a very small risk of a woman getting pregnant, though they can make birth control more ineffective. A woman being advised of this small risk may decide to temporarily use a back-up birth control method.
Some medications are altered by what you eat and when you eat it. Food may delay or decrease the absorption of a drug, causing it to be less effective. Most medications work best on an empty stomach, which means taking it either one hour before eating or two hours after eating. On the other hand, some drugs work better when taken with food just after a meal. Your medication label will tell you how to take it. If there is no mention of taking it with or with out food, then it can be taken either way.
Patients often ask if alcohol can be consumed while taking medication. The general rule of thumb is that medication and alcohol taken close together may change the potency of a drug. The most serious reaction is the combination of alcohol and narcotic pain medications, sleeping pills or sedatives. Many accidental or suicidal deaths we hear about in the media are the result of these drugs being combined with alcohol.
I do not advise consuming alcohol while taking medication, but I realize that it is a fact of life. If drinking is done in moderation, then it is best that the consumption of alcoholic beverages and the taking of medications be separated by at least two hours.
Regardless, it is important to stress that when taking prescription medication, carefully read the instruction sheet given by the pharmacist as well as the label on the container. This will help to ensure safe and effective use of your medication.