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Researchers find Xanax, caffeine and cough medicine in “pure” blood ready for transfusion

Bloodborne illnesses might be a big concern when it comes to blood transfusions, but a recent study showed that an alarming percentage of human blood transfusions that are believed to be pure actually contain a variety of drugs.

In a collaboration between researchers from the University of Illinois and Oregon State University, samples were tested using mass spectrometry that had been collected by blood banks and were destined for transfusion but had expired before they were able to be used. The samples were being tested in order to determine the purity of the blood samples prior to using them for their study to test a method that examines how botanicals such as ginkgo biloba, echinacea, and CBD oil affect drug metabolization.

The researchers did not expect to find any substances in the so-called “pure sample” transfusions, but it turned out that a full 100 percent of them contained caffeine. Even more surprisingly, 70 percent of the samples contained alprazolam, the chemical behind the anti-anxiety medication Xanax.

Another chemical that appeared frequently was dextromethorphan. A component of cough medicine, it appeared in eight of the samples tested. Ultimately, the researchers were forced to reject all the blood batches that had been tested and rely instead on samples that came from a pair of donors who had agreed in advance not to consume anything containing caffeine prior to the donation.

Further studies are needed to confirm the trend; this study only involved 18 samples so it may not reflect the bigger picture as accurately as a more comprehensive study would. It’s important to note that the researchers essentially discovered this by accident; they happened to be looking for the drugs in question while performing a drug interaction assay validation. Therefore, there’s no telling just how many other drugs might also be present in blood transfusions that they weren’t looking for on this occasion.

There is no question that blood transfusions can save lives, but it’s important to keep in mind that there are risks involved. Although universal screening has brought down the risk of passing along infections like HIV through blood transfusions, there is still the possibility of allergic reaction and other types of contamination. The presence of caffeine might not be particularly worrying, but the other drugs could cause problems for some types of patients, especially in terms of potential drug interactions with other medications the recipients happen to be taking.

Anxious, stressed and tired society reflected in blood samples

Their finding also provides some insight into the way we live in modern times, with nearly everybody relying on caffeine to get through their days. Last year, it emerged that the number of Americans who drink at least one cup of coffee per day had reached its highest level since 2012.

It’s also indicative of widespread anxiety – not to mention people’s willingness to take pills in hopes of addressing it.

Their findings were reported in the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis.

A dearth of clean blood samples will make it difficult for these researchers and others who wish to carry out similar studies. In this case, they wanted to have a group of study participants take medications along with an herbal supplement to see if the presence of the herb caused them to metabolize the drugs differently.

It’s a question that we need answered now as more and more people are turning to supplements to address health problems while increasingly taking prescription medications as well. Little is known about the way that botanical supplements and prescriptions drugs interact, and without truly pure blood samples, this important work cannot be carried out.

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