Case Management

Nearly 42% of adults have medication interaction risks

Case Management Insider, March 31, 2015

Problems related to medication are a common cause of preventable hospital readmissions. A new study has shed light on a big problem area—nearly half of all adults drink even though the medication they take interacts with alcohol.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published in the February issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research polled some 26,000 adults and found that nearly 42% of adults who drink also take a medication that interacts with alcohol.
“Combining alcohol with medications often carries the potential for serious health risks,” said Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of NIH. “Based on this study, many individuals may be mixing alcohol with interactive medications and they should be aware of the possible harms.”
Side effects of these interactions can include everything from nausea and coordination problems to heart and breathing problems or even internal bleeding, according to the NIH.
That percentage is even higher among older adults over the age of 65. Approximately 78% of adults in this age group reported drinking and using a medication that interacts with alcohol. In addition, as people age their bodies become slower at metabolizing medications, which means it is even more likely that the medication will be in their system when they have a drink.
It’s not hard to understand why these interactions are so common when you consider that some 71% of U.S. adults drink alcohol and that alcohol-interactive medications are used to treat a number of highly prevalent conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, or depression, according to the NIH.
Case managers should put this issue on their radar when preparing patients for discharge.
“We suggest that people talk to their doctor or pharmacist about whether they should avoid alcohol while taking their prescribed medications,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Rosalind Breslow, an epidemiologist in NIAAA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research. 
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