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The Hidden Dangers of Taking More Than One Medication at Once

December 09, 2008 | 69,673 views

medications, prescription drugsMost people have the perception that drugs are evaluated by the government, and thus are safe if taken under the guidance of competent physicians. However, even if you accept this, you must ask yourself -- how might that safety change if you take multiple drugs?

For safety assurances, proper testing should be done for every drug combination you are advised to take. If you take Prozac and Tylenol, for example, you should be presented with all the possible benefits and consequences before allowing these two foreign substances to mix with the chemicals your body already creates. The same thing goes for combining Paxil with Viagra or Interferon with Lipitor.

The list of possible problems here is monstrously long, because there are a huge number of possible combinations. Nonetheless, there have been relatively few studies that test drugs in combination. So if you take two drugs, the odds of their combination having been adequately tested for safety are skimpy at best. But if you take three or more drugs the danger possibilities multiply even faster.

If you take 3 drugs then adequate safety testing of the various combinations require 7 separate tests. If you take 4 drugs the combinations require 25 separate tests. If you take 5 drugs it amounts to 121 tests. If you take 10 drugs the number of required safety tests total 362,881.

The conclusion here should be obvious. There is questionable safety testing if you take two drugs and nominal, if any, safety testing if you take three. Beyond that you are clearly into the land of, "I have no idea what these combinations of drugs will do."
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Take two, three, four or more synthetic, chemical compounds (drugs), throw them down the hatch with a glass of water and what do you get?

Who knows!

Safety testing on drug combinations is lacking to non-existent in the scientific literature, so it’s anybody’s guess what multiple drug combinations will do to your health. It truly is scary to think about, and what’s worse is that no one seems to be doing a thing about it.

The number of prescriptions taken by Americans increased 72 percent from 1997 to 2007. Last year alone, 3.8 billion prescriptions were filled, with an average of nearly 13 prescriptions filled by each and every American, according to the New York Times.

Now I haven’t taken any prescription drugs in years, and I suspect you haven’t either as you are reading this newsletter. So these numbers are actually FAR worse as there are many of us that are simply not taking any.

Taking multiple medications is especially concerning among the elderly. The average senior over age 65 fills an average of nearly 29 prescriptions every year. And in 2007, a survey by AARP found that:

• 45 percent of those aged 65 and over take three to six prescription drugs on a regular basis
• 12 percent take seven to nine
• 10 percent take 10 or more

This does not even take into account any over-the-counter medications or supplements that they may be taking as well.

Of course, as you might suspect the more medications you’re on, the greater your risk of drug interactions becomes.

"Statistically, if you take six different drugs, you have an 80 percent chance of at least one drug-drug interaction. With eight drugs, the chance is 100 percent," says Wayne K. Anderson, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Polypharmacy, which refers to the poisonous chemical cocktail of multiple drugs that many people are taking, is an increasing health concern not just for the elderly, but for everyone.

The Steep Health Dangers of Taking Multiple Drugs

Dr. Michael Stern, a specialist in geriatric emergency medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, told the New York Times:

“Polypharmacy is responsible for up to 28 percent of hospital admissions and, if it were classified as such, it would be the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.”

So far, only a handful of drug interactions are noted to be dangerous. For instance:

• Ibuprofen can cause bleeding ulcers when taken with prescription painkillers.
• Combining ginkgo biloba with blood-thinning drugs like aspirin or warfarin can lead to severe bleeding.
• The antibiotic erythromycin can lead to a toxic reaction when combined with certain cholesterol-lowering drugs, potentially leading to kidney failure.

Unfortunately, most drug interactions are discovered by accident and entirely too late -- or are not discovered at all because people may not equate their symptoms to their medications.

There’s No Reason to be Taking so Many Medications

If you are taking more medications than you can keep track of, I’d highly suggest you seek out a natural-health oriented physician who can help you get to the root of the problem. Prescription drugs rarely “cure” anything. All they do is cover up symptoms, and, more often, create symptoms of their own that are then treated with even more medications.

If you are taking multiple meds, the very least you should do is check for potential interactions. Ask your doctor about the risks directly, and then double check again at the pharmacy. You can also use an online Drug Interaction Checker like this one from Discovery Health.

Would I suggest you rely on this to tell you that taking multiple drugs is safe?

No way.

Computers may flag some potential interactions, but they can’t address the complexity of interactions among six, eight or 10 different drugs, taken in unique individuals ranging from infants to the elderly.

The REAL solution to avoiding dangerous drug interactions is to turn away from prescription drugs, and back to some basic health principles.

I realize that asking you to Take Control of Your Health means battling a massive drug culture that has permeated the very core of American society. But there is no magic pill! You cannot cure your ailments with pharmaceutical drugs.

It’s time to start trusting in the innate recuperative powers of your body, rather than putting all of your faith into a man-made medication. The more you put into caring for your body, the less you’ll need to rely on prescription drugs, and ultimately the better you will feel.

[+] Sources and References
  • World Center for EFT

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