Dangerous Liaisons: Managing your medication

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You may have noticed that as the years start to stack up, so do the number of prescription bottles on your nightstand or in your medicine cabinet. Aging adults often have to take a number of dietary supplements and over-the-counter medications in order to maintain their health.  Despite the health benefits, it’s important to note that certain combinations of medications could lead to adverse effects. Here are some dangerous drug interactions to look out for when managing those medications:

Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines

Heart Medications

Staying heart healthy is one of the top concerns amongst seniors, however, pairing cardiovascular medication with certain non-prescription pills could lead to unwanted results. For example, the blood thinner clopidogrel, sold under the name Plavix, reduces the risk of stroke and staves off heart disease. But mixing it with aspirin may lead to excessive bleeding. A similar anticoagulant, warfarin, sold as Coumadin, can cause the same issue when taken with aspirin.


Seniors being treated for bacterial infections may run into trouble by taking over-the-counter antacids. While medications like Mylanta and Pepto-Bismol are benign on their own, they can hinder the absorption of antibiotics. The same is true of common antidiarrheal medicines, including Imodium.

Antihistamines and decongestants

Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin are helpful in managing seasonal allergies, but they can raise blood pressure and interfere with hypertension medication. While effective in combating a common cold, nasal decongestants like Sudafed and Dristan can, similarly, cause unwanted spikes in blood pressure. Many antihistamines also induce drowsiness and should be taken with caution in conjunction with tranquilizers and sedatives.

Prescription drugs and herbal remedies

While increasingly popular, some herbal remedies are untested and unregulated. Exercise caution and seek advice before taking them. Here are a few common combinations that create problems:

  • John’s Wort: Often used to manage depression, the flowering plant can inhibit immunosuppressants, heart medicines like digoxin, and tranquilizers such as Xanax.

  • Ginkgo Biloba: This centuries-old Chinese herbal remedy is sometimes taken to manage Alzheimer’s disease and stave off memory loss. However, it can lower the effectiveness of antiviral drugs and medicines that the liver metabolizes.

  • Echinacea: This herb is widely used to treat common cold symptoms. Despite its reported immune-boosting properties, studies show that it can also inhibit prescription drugs that are metabolized in the liver.

  • Goldenseal: Used to treat flu symptoms and skin irritations, Goldenseal can interfere with antipsychotic drugs, altering blood levels and leading to problems with heart rhythm.

  • Ginseng: Taken to manage stress, ginseng acts as a blood thinner and interacts negatively with medications for blood pressure and drugs for diabetes, including insulin.

  • Medicinal garlic: Garlic may provide a moderate benefit by curtailing blood clots, but it can also interfere with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin and clopidogrel.

Staying safe while taking medications

As you age, the number of medications you need to take increases, and with it, the risk of adverse effects from mixing certain pills or natural remedies. That’s why the assisted-living team at the Terraces works with families and residents to create customized care plans that address all aspects of their medicinal and dietary concerns.

In addition, the Life Care Benefit program is designed to meet the evolving medical needs of our residents. Our team of certified, skilled nurses is on hand 24-hours a day to monitor and administer medication to residents, providing a lifetime of priority care.




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