With the death of Heath Ledger bringing accidental overdoses into view it is important to know how to protect yourself from the same fate. Often times when a person is sick they can mix up dosages and find themselves in trouble.
One of the wisest things you can do when you are ill is to ask your pharmacist if there are any drugs that don't work well together in the mix you may be taking.
Another smart thing to do when taking multiple medications is to make a dosage chart and check off medicines when you take them. It's rather easy to take a dose too often when you are groggy from illness to begin with.
Ledger isn't the only one to die from prescription medicine overdose while sick. (The autopsy results aren't back yet so this is a purely speculative statement.) In November R&B singer Gerald Levert died from a combination of Darvocet, Percocet and Vicodin, the anxiety medicine Xanax and two over-the-counter antihistamines. He had been ill with pneumonia, shoulder problems and recovering from a surgery repairing his Achilles tendon.
In 2004 almost 20,000 people died when taking drugs that had prescribed to them caused a accidental acute intoxication according to a report by the CDC.
Prescription drugs, especially prescription painkillers, are driving the prolonged increase," the report stated.
Many of the over the counter medications on the market today were prescription drugs just a few years ago. If you are combining medications it is always wise to make sure that they interact okay with other drugs, regardless if they come from a prescription or just over the counter.
There are many online drug interaction checkers for those who would rather check on their own. Caremark, the University of Maryland Medical Center, Drugs.com, Eckerd, Discovery Health, Drugstore.com and Express Scripts all have online checkers for people to double check their own medications. These checkers often will list foods that should be avoided also when taking certain medications.
These checkers though are not without problems. It is always best to have medications checked by a medical professional.
"It is very important for patients to use the same pharmacy and make sure that they share all of their prescription drugs and their OTC drugs with their pharmacies," said Jody Cook, a spokeswoman for Rite Aid.