Did you know that over 600,000 emergency room visits each year involved adverse reactions to or interactions of prescriptions or over-the counter drugs or supplements? Here are some of the main risks:
  • Taking different drugs prescribed by more than one doctor
  • Using drugs to treat conditions for which they weren't originally prescribed
  • Taking leftover drugs that were stockpiled and later used incorrectly
  • Using a drug that was appropriate initially but caused a toxic interaction when a new drug was prescribed
  • Taking OTC medications or supplements incorrectly or in combination with prescription drugs

     Some examples of types of drugs that can result in dangerous interactions with others are:

  • Central nervous system depressants. Opioid painkillers (e.g. Oxycontin)  on their own can be dangerous when taken in sufficient quantities. Sedating drugs such as benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium) taken for anxiety added into the mix can result in a deadly combination.  
  • Blood thinners. The drug warfarin (Coumadin) has what's call a 'narrow therapeutic range,' meaning that just a bit too much or too little in the blood can be dangerous. Taking antibiotics can lead to higher levels of warfarin in the body, resulting in hemorrhaging. NSAIDS (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) can result in the same consequences. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be a safer OTC pain killer for those on blood thinners. 
  • Antidepressants. Combining one type of antidepressant with another can result in a rare but potentially fatal reaction called 'serotonin syndrome.' This is most likely to occur when moving from one type of antidepressant to another without allowing one to clear the system before starting the new one.
  • Acetaminophen. Various cold and flu "combo" medicines may contain acetaminophen. Before taking acetaminophen tablets or capsules, always read the labels of any of these combo cold medications you're taking. An overdose of acetaminophen can result in liver damage or even failure.