Deadly Cocktails: The Dangers of Mixing Prescription Drugs

Oscar winner Heath Ledger's death has brought nationwide attention to the dangers of mixing prescriptions with other medicines.

You can now add the singer and performer Michael Jackson to the list of victims of improperly administered prescription medications.


Death can occur when patients mix any combination of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements or alcohol.

Accidental deaths involving medications are most often not from the medications themselves, but an unapproved combination of medications and/or alcohol. Alcohol mixed with any medication can have negative side effects. However, the most dangerous medications mixed with alcohol include sleeping aids, anti-anxiety drugs, antihistamines, and anti-depressants.

To help avoid a lethal combination of medications patients should try to use the same pharmacy and consult their pharmacist about any changes to their medication regimen. Patients should also provide their doctors and pharmacist a full list of medications they are taking and have taken in the past. Such patients taking an active role in their healthcare will increase the likelihood of detecting any potentially dangerous drug interactions.

Los Angeles Times

A Federal Program was Designed to Help Solve these Problems for Medicare Recipients

Medication Therapy Management or MTM was coined by Congress in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 to describe services by pharmacists that help consumers get the best results from medications through:

  • Enhanced consumer understanding of medications
  • Increased consumer adherence to medication directions
  • Prevention of drug complications, conflicts and interactions

A safe and effective medication taken improperly, or in a bad combination, can be harmful or even disastrous. MTM prevents these complications and improves health care quality while reducing avoidable medical expenses.

There is a network of Personal Pharmacists that is highly trained in MTM. Their trusted and reliable services can be the difference between improved health and serious medication-related complications.

Help for Seniors Enrolled in a Federal Medicare Prescription Program

As a practicing pharmacist, I know how critical it is for patients to manage their medication therapy appropriately. Several states reimburse participating pharmacists who conduct comprehensive medication therapy reviews on eligible patients' first visits, and on follow-up consultations.

The goal is to identify and educate participants at risk for adverse health events as a result of taking multiple medications. The services are provided in a semiprivate or private setting.

Depending on the individual needs of the patient, services may include:

1) Patient-specific services provided directly by a network pharmacist.

2) Identification of Medicare Prescription Drug Program participants who should receive Medication Therapy Management services.

3) Face-to-face interaction between the patient and the pharmacist, independent of medication dispensing.

4) Comprehensive Medication Review to identify, resolve and prevent medication-related problems. Pharmacist will:

a. Counsel patients regarding clinical appropriateness, dosing regimen, adverse effects and potential problems with concomitant medications (two or more medications that are given at or about the same time)

b. Monitor and evaluate patient response to therapy, including safety and effectiveness

c. Formulate a medication treatment plan

d. Provide verbal education and training designed to enhance patient understand and compliance with his/her medication regimen

e. Document the care delivered and communicate essential information to the patient's other primary care providers

In North Carolina you can visit: http://www.checkmedsnc.com/ to learn more.

Much of this information is taken from their web site.

This program makes it easier to get your pharmacist's help in going over your medicines to make sure they work well for you. A pharmacist will meet with you and look at all of your medicines. Then he/she will make sure you know:

  • When and how to take your medicine
  • If there are ways you can save money by making some changes
  • If you need to change the drugs you are taking (due to side effects or if there are drugs that can't be taken at the same time)

Then the pharmacist will talk with your doctor about any changes that are needed in the drugs you take.

Are You Eligible?

If you are 65 years of age or older, live in North Carolina and take part in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, you can get this free service

This federal program is currently available in most states.

Bob Diamond R.Ph

Bob the Pharmacist.com

The Charlotte Christian Patriot

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Prescription Drug Errors Video

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Comments 9 comments

katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

This is very helpful information on deadly cocktails of medicines, over the counter and prescribed. With the cold and flu season I suffer from allergies and often take decongestants which I now know must be more careful noting what I take in a day and the combination of those drugs. I drink a glass or two of red wine every evening so I have learned valuable tips. Thank you!


DiamondRN profile image

DiamondRN 6 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA Author

SupportMed, if you are referring to the senior program: If you are 65 years of age or older, live in North Carolina and take part in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, you can get this free service. Pharmacists like myself have to go through some additional training and testing in order to qualify to be a consultant in this program.


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

This is great! Question: Is this only for pharmacists who are enrolled to participate in this type of consultation with the patient? I know pharmacists will ask if you have any questions, but I think you are referring to a more in-depth consultation. Am I understanding this right? If so, I think that is a good thing. Thanks you much for this contribution. Have a good day! Voted/rated.


Medication Therapy Management 6 years ago

TML - He will die whenever he has to. Birth, Marriage and Death are decided by the almighty and no one on this planet earth can do anything to bring anybody to death. Deaths that happen by bring someone closer to death is a mere myth.


TML 6 years ago

Hi, one of my best friends is currently in a coma from taking doctor described methadone, paxil, xanax, and valium. He was taking trazodone/valium mix for the last two years, but after he began going to methadone clinic for treatment of nonprescribed oxycotton addiction. They abruptly stopped him from trazodone, kept the valium and added paxil and xanax along with the methadone. Can you explain why a doctor would prescribe so many meds to someone who is suffering from a prescription medication addiction? Or why he would prescribe methadone with xanax when i've heard that is a very risky combination. And why they would take him off trazodone abruptly? My friend was put in the hospital on july 29th and on August 2nd (yesterday) He was taken off life support and now all his friends and family are waiting for him to slowly die in an unconscious state. I'm looking for some answers to have some closure to the soon to be death of my best friend, who finally after several years was actually trying to get off drugs. (Maybe i'm missing something, like he didn't inform the methadone clinic of other meds he was taking) but no one will ever know that now i guess. Thank you


DiamondRN profile image

DiamondRN 6 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA Author

It's OK, Kris, as long as you are staying within normal prescribing limits. What is the dosage of each in question?


kris 6 years ago

I was wondering if it is safe to take tramadol and oxycodone?


mfartr profile image

mfartr 8 years ago from California

Thanks for making this page Bob. It's important people be aware of drug interactions. I had a scare myself when I accidentally took my wife's medicine instead of my own and only new to call because of the program you mention. Everything turned out OK.


Lucia Bayne 8 years ago

Bob, this is great information. So many people die from overdose of medication, specially of mixing prescription.

Thank God I do not take any prescription medication or over the counter medicines.

Good job! You are helping the community opening their eyes!!

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