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Medication Management

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Avoiding Drug Interactions

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Alcohol-Drug Interactions: Although not technically a food, alcohol is often grouped with foods when considering interactions with medications. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 25 percent of emergency room admissions may have alcohol-drug interactions as a component of the underlying problem. The elderly are especially at risk for this type of interaction since they consume more than 30 percent of all prescription medications consumed in the U.S. today and the risk for alcohol abuse is also significant in the elderly population.

Alcohol intensifies the effect of some medications, such as sedatives or pain medicines. What's more, some medications increase the effects of alcohol causing dizziness, drowsiness, inability to control balance or walk properly, as well as many others. Alcohol can exhaust enzymes needed to metabolize the medication, thereby prolonging the absorption of the medication and risking more side effects in the body. It can also have the opposite effect by prolonging the metabolizing of medication the bloodstream, rendering the drug less effective.

Whether it is alcohol or other foods, be certain to check with your doctor or pharmacist to determine whether or not there is any concern with foods that are used in the home. Keep track of any adverse reactions and check with your doctor immediately if there is cause for alarm.

Drug Reactions:

While there are concerns about foods or medicines interfering with one another, there is also the question of how a person will react to a medication. Side effects are possible with any medication on the market since there are many different types of people and diseases. It is important to minimize side effects while treating the underlying condition.

Keep a diary at home of any reaction that seems unusual. Some of the items to include in the diary include:

  • When was the medication was given?

  • How long did it take to notice the reaction?

  • What is the nature of the reaction?

  • Does it seem to get better or worse as time goes by?

  • Is this a known side effect of the medication?

  • How much discomfort does it cause in the patient?

Your physician may suggest other areas to observe.

By keeping a comprehensive diary of reactions, you can determine whether or not this is a true drug reaction or a symptom of the underlying disease, or even a new one that may be developing. Your doctor will want to see the diary, at least in part, when trying to figure out how best to treat the reaction.


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