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There’s a Decent Chance You Shouldn’t Be Eating That Grapefruit

Not-very-fun fact: A ton of common prescription drugs are affected by grapefruit juice, and the results aren’t any fun, either

If you ever took the time to actually read through the drug information pamphlet your pharmacist gave you with your medication, you might notice that it specifically mentions not to eat grapefruit. You might be inclined to toss that advice out the window along with the “do not consume alcohol with this medication” recommendation, but depending on what exactly you’re taking, you could be much worse for wear after drinking a Paloma than you would if you were just drinking tequila straight.

I learned all this the hard way. After a lovely afternoon spent on vacation by the pool in Florida sipping fresh grapefruit juice, I awoke in the night feeling as though I had blisters along my stomach lining. I’d heard the warnings about grapefruit-drug interactions before, but because it wasn’t explicitly written right on the front of my prescription bottle or even mentioned by my doctor, I didn’t think it applied to me and my silly sad girl brain meds. But after a quick pain-inspired Google search, I discovered that the grapefruit rule especially applied to me and my silly sad-girl brain meds. 

According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, grapefruit is known to interact with 85 different medications. “Many of the drugs that interact with grapefruit are highly prescribed and are essential for the treatment of important or common medical conditions,” the study states. High cholesterol and blood pressure treatments, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and immunosuppressants are among the common categories of prescriptions at risk.

As for why, grapefruit contains chemicals known as furanocoumarins, which our body is only able to metabolize with a specific enzyme. When we digest grapefruit, our stores of this enzyme are inhibited. Unfortunately, it’s these enzymes specifically that our body uses to metabolize many medications. Without them, our bodies can absorb too much of the medication. For instance, a single glass of grapefruit juice can reduce our intestinal enzyme capabilities by 47 percent, with impacts lasting up to 24 hours.

The consequences of this can be serious. Per, common side effects include abnormal heart rhythms, stomach bleeding, muscle pain, muscle breakdown, kidney damage, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, sedation and dizziness.

Despite this, the concept of drugs working too well appeals to some recreational drug users, who consume grapefruit in hopes of boosting the effects of psychoactive drugs. Across drug-related forums on Reddit and Erowid, people have shared their experiences of combining grapefruit with Xanax, ketamine, codeine, MDMA and more in hopes of increasing the intensity and longevity of the experience. The stories seem to indicate mixed results: While grapefruit can increase the rate of absorption for certain drugs, it can also impact the proteins that would transport the drug to cells throughout the body, thus dimming the effects. 

Seering intestinal pain would probably harsh the vibe as well, I imagine.