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Medication Side Effects and Interactions

Doctor presents prescription medication

Print the article here! You can also find a list of common medications here.

Understanding medication and its impact is important.

  • Medication handling requires great responsibility.
  • Improper handling of medication is a threat to an individual’s health and safety.
  • This presentation will help you to properly identify and react to medication side effects and interactions.

What is medication?

  • Medication helps people become or stay healthy.
  • People take medication daily if they have an ongoing or chronic health condition.
  • For example, if an individual has:
    • Seizures,
    • Diabetes, or
    • High Blood Pressure.

Why is medication taken?

  • The individual you support may take medication to:
    • Be cured of an illness.
    • Heal faster when injured.
    • Feel better due to a chronic health condition.
  • The “intended effect” is WHY someone takes a certain medication.

What is a medication side effect?

  • A side effect is any change the medication causes, other than the intended effect.
  • A side effect may make the individual feel bad or uncomfortable.
  • A side effect can be dangerous or life threatening.

What are common side effects?

  • Common side effects of medication include:
    • Headaches
    • Feeling tired or sleepy
    • Feeling dizzy
    • Upset stomach
    • Redness on your skin
    • Feeling nervous
    • Gaining weight
    • Dry mouth

How side effects impact the individual you support.

  • Side effects can occur any time after taking medication.
  • Side effects can disappear shortly after taking the medication. Others can last a long time.
  • Side effects can cause physical and/or behavioral changes.
  • Side effects can be life-threatening.

Your responsibilities as a supporter include:

  • Understanding the medication’s intended effects and side effects.
  • Documenting any physical and/or behavioral changes you see in the individual you support.
  • Reporting the changes you see to their doctor.
  • Following the doctor’s directions.

Ask the doctor about side effects.

  • Talk to the doctor about side effects when the doctor orders or changes the medication of the individual you support.
  • Make sure the doctor:
    • Knows about all other medications, vitamins, herbs or other remedies the individual you support takes.
    • Knows about any allergies the individual you support has.

What are medication interactions?

  • Sometimes medication interacts with other things. This means something causes the medicine to work in a different way. This can be harmful to the individual you support.
  • Medications interact with:
    • Other medications
    • Foods
    • Drinks
    • Activities

Identifying medication interactions is critical to an individual’s health and safety.

  • Medication interactions can occur between drugs and many common foods and drinks.
  • Adverse reactions can be dangerous.

Ask the doctor about medication interactions.

  • What does this medication interact with?
  • What should the individual I support avoid?

Call the doctor if you suspect the individual you support is experiencing an adverse drug reaction.

Ask the pharmacist.

  • About all prescribed medications.
  • What the side effects of the medication are.
  • If the medication interacts with other medications, foods, drinks, or activities.
  • To review the medication information sheet with you and the individual you support.

Follow these simple rules to keep the individual you support healthy.

  • Learn about all the medications they are taking.
  • Help them to follow the medication’s directions.
  • Ask the doctor and pharmacist about the medications and any potential side effects.
  • Look for signs of physical and/or behavioral changes in the individual you support.

Get help if you need it.

  • Call the doctor or pharmacist if:
    • You have health questions or concerns.
    • You notice any negative physical and/or behavioral effects after administering a medication.


  • Please check our Common Medications Profile tools to:
    • Browse the most commonly prescribed medications.
    • Search for information by medication name, use, and type.
    • Learn about side effects of specific medications.
    • Protect the individual you support from harmful drug interactions.
  • Consult these online tools for more information on medication side effects and interactions:


  • Drug Side Effects
  • Medication Safety
    • California Department of Developmental Services
  • Medication Management
    • California Department of Developmental Services
    • DSP Year 2 Student Guide
Last updated on Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:55