Remember that Seinfeld episode where Elaine fails a urine test because of a poppy seed bagel? Innocently enough, she eats her normal breakfast and, all of a sudden, is accused of being an opium junkie. Well this is kind of like that, but more dangerous. Grapefruit juice can actually lead to a drug overdose!
If you’ve ever thought to wash your dose of Fluvoxamine down with a cold glass of grapefruit juice, DON’T do it! You could O.D.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “this is b.s. – grapefruits can’t get me high… I’ve tried.” Well, you’re correct (and disturbed). Alone, they can’t. But, when combined with certain medications, there can be serious problems.
It’s not actually the grapefruit that causes the drug overdose, it’s the medication. A compound included in the fruit can ultimately increase the effects of the drug.
When you pop a pill, it starts to get metabolized almost instantly. As it’s traveling through your body, it’s getting broken down at each stage. Your cells are essentially eliminating the drugs as quickly as it can before it gets to point where it’s absorbed into your blood stream. By the time it does, it’s a fraction of the potency as when you swallowed it.
Enter the grapefruit.
The grapefruit (and its juice) acts as a lead blocker for the drug. To get technical, we have an enzyme (CYP3A4) that contributes to the metabolizing process. The enzyme breaks down and counteracts some of the effects of the medication.
Grapefruits have another compound called furanocoumarins. The two aren’t friends and don’t play nicely together. The latter prevents the former from doing its job. As a result you get more potency and potentially a grapefruit-caused drug overdose.
Currently, there are 85 known drugs that, when combined with grapefruits, can lead to a drug overdose. The common features of these drugs include:
- they’re taken orally
- only a small amount of the drug is meant to enter the bloodstream
- they’re metabolized by CYP3A4
So how do you enjoy some delicious grapefruit juice, continue to take your meds, and live to tell your buddies about it? Here are a few simple tips.
- leave a 4 hour gap between taking medication and consuming grapefruit
- read your medications info page
- ask your physician if it’s safe
If you’d like to check the list of known drugs that affect medication, go here for Grapefruit-drug Interactions.
This shouldn’t scare you away from the fruit! This will be applicable to a very small minority of our readers.
Click here to see the many helpful grapefruit juice benefits.