What To Know About Drug Interactions

A West LA pharmacy shelf.
What To Know About Drug Interactions

With the amount of new medications being developed every day, it’s more important than ever to know about the medicine you’re prescribed, especially if you have more than one prescription. The labeling on a bottle of prescription medication can appear quite confusing at first glance. It will generally be labeled with the name of the medication, who it is prescribed to, whether or not to take it with food, and other information. Another common label on a bottle of prescription medication is a label that informs you on possible drug interactions. Drug interactions can cause serious complications, so today’s blog will serve as a primer on what drug interactions are, how dangerous they may be, and what to ask your Los Angeles pharmacist about drug interactions. 


What is a Drug Interaction?

Drug interactions are simple in concept, but when examined closely can be quite complicated. At the basest level, a drug interaction is exactly how it sounds: a medication having an unintended interaction when consumed. Drug interactions can range from something relatively harmless like a reduction in effectiveness to serious complications that may be life threatening.


Types of Drug Interaction

Drug interactions are categorized by what the medication is interacting with. Most commonly, these are:

Drug-Drug Interactions

This type of interaction occurs when two different medications interact with each other. This type of interaction can cause two drugs to cancel each other out, or it can cause the side effects to intensify if two or more of your medications have the same side effects. For example, taking a sedative medication prescribed for insomnia at the same time as an anti-histamine can cause serious impairment, slow reactions, and dizziness, making everyday activities dangerous. 

Drug-Health Condition Interactions

Medication may also interact with certain health conditions, even conditions that the drug may not be intended to treat. A common example is the interaction between high blood pressure and common cold decongestants. Certain over-the-counter decongestants can cause an increase in blood pressure that can be dangerous for people who already have hypertension.

Drug-Food Interactions

Some medications are indicated to be taken with or without food, but the possibilities of drug-food interactions are more than just that. Even beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic can affect medication. Grapefruit juice is one of the most common foods that can affect how a medication works in the body, and it can affect medication that lowers cholesterol, high blood pressure drugs, some corticosteroids, and others. 


Alcohol is also commonly listed as something to avoid when taking medication. The sedating effects of alcohol can be intensified if a medication has similar side effects, creating a much more powerful intoxication than you may be expecting. Some medication may also interact with alcohol to increase the risk of liver damage, heart problems, impaired breathing, and other complications.

When you refill a prescription or receive a new prescription, your provider will usually tell you about any possible interactions, but it’s important to be sure you ask questions. It’s especially important to ask questions about possible drug interactions if your lifestyle changes, or if you begin taking any new prescription or even over-the-counter medication.