Prescription drug accidents cause countless deaths, illnesses, and hospital emergency room visits every year. Medications for various health problems are handed out hastily oftentimes without thought to the devastating consequences. Got high cholesterol? Can't sleep? Feel depressed? Have high blood pressure? Migraine sufferer? Yes. While these are real medical conditions facing people daily prescription drug interactions cause problems. However, there are steps that can be taken to prevent some of the most common drug errors.

Things You Will Need

drug interaction tool
list of prescription medications
list of herbal supplements and vitamins

Step 1

Gather all of your prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, herbal supplements and vitamins and write down their names. Take this list to your doctor and your pharmacist so they can check for any kind of interaction. There are over 1400 prescription drugs that sound alike. One of the most common errors is caused by medications that sound or look similar. Any time you get a new prescription or your pills look different look it up online. There are many online prescription identification tools. All you need to do is look up the imprints and shape.

Put your prescriptions in a bag and take them into your pharmacy to look for problems. A pharmacist will be able to go through your meds and tell you of any interactions between them and other OTC drugs you're taking.

Step 2

Make sure to follow the dosing on the bottle and always use the dosing device that comes with the prescription. The 2nd leading cause of death is from complications arising from mixing up the medications and taking too high of a dose. Tylenol is a good example of a drug that causes liver failure and death by ingesting too much. It is a common additive to cold medicine and narcotic pain pills such as Vicodin or Percocet. People innocently pop a few Tylenol throughout the day and don't realize how fast the milligrams add up to toxic levels.

Step 3

Check food interactions. Some medications cannot be taken with certain foods because they directly interact or the food or drink causes the medicine to be more or less potent. Make sure to have a list of foods that can be problematic so they can be avoided. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice has the ability to reduce the effectiveness of several medicines.

Step 4

Avoid mixing herbal supplements and vitamins with your prescriptions. It's not that you cannot take both and, in fact, there are many supplements that are very good and have positive health benefits such as Omega 3-6-9 found in fish, nuts, flax oil and other sources. However, before starting any supplement or vitamins it's important to cross reference them for possible interactions.

Many times people end up taking too many of the same kind of prescription medications that have the same effect. If you are taking SSRI/SNRI antidepressants (Prozac, Paxil, Effexor) and a triptan medication for migraines (Zomig, Imitrex) it can cause too much serotonin in the brain which can be deadly. These simple interactions are often missed by a doctor and even the pharmacy so it is very important to be proactive in your health care. Oftentimes people add adjunct vitamin or supplement therapies that can be just as dangerous. One of these interactions to avoid is taking St. Johns Wort while you are on any antidepressants.

Step 5

Help your grandma. If you have a senior in your life make sure their medications are right. Too often seniors cannot discern which tablet is for blood pressure and which one helps with urinary incontinence. This is not the person's fault, but the drug company who manufactures too many pills to look the same. This is not a problem that is isolated to seniors. Many people and pharmacists mistake one medication for another and the result can end up deadly.


Tips & Warnings

Keep an updated list of all your medications, herbal, and vitamins on the same sheet of paper for easy reference.