This week the Los Angeles coroner ruled Michael Jackson's death a homicide due to interactions of several drugs found in the pop star's blood, including propofol, an anaesthetic normally used only in hospitals. Jackson's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, admitted to giving the singer this potent drug to treat his insomnia.

Reports indicate that Murray was concerned about Jackson becoming addicted to propofol, and attempted to wean him off it by also administering two sedatives - lorazepam and midazolam. However, some health experts say there is no surprise that the cocktail of drugs Jackson was given was deadly, including Dr. Jessica Oesterheld, a co-author of the Clinical Manual of Drug Interaction Principles for Medical Practice.

Oesterheld reviewed the full list of medications Michael Jackson was allegedly taking. Some of the other medications on the list were Paxil®, Zoloft®, and the opioids Demerol® and Vicodin. According to Oesterheld, propofol has been responsible for accidental deaths in recreational users, plus interactions between propofol and these other medications increase their potential danger.

Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association points to adverse drug reactions as one of the leading causes of death in the country. In many cases, drug reactions and interactions can be avoided. Here's how to lower your risk:

• Disclose all medications and supplements you're taking. To avoid drug interactions, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality advises that you fill in your health care team about dietary supplements, vitamins, herbs, and prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines you're taking.

• Disclose all medical conditions. Let your health care team also know if you have a health condition such as any allergies to medications, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Tell them if you're pregnant or nursing, or drink alcohol, as some drugs, herbs and supplements will be off limits.

• Make sure the prescription is legible, advises the Joint Commission, a non-profit that accredits health care organizations and programs. If your pharmacist can't read the prescription it increases room for error. Furthermore, some drugs may have similar names, for instance Toradol® and tramodol, so it's essential that the prescription is clear.

• Know the side effects of your drugs. Discuss this at length with your doctor when he recommends a new medication - prescription or OTC. Ask for advice about how to handle the side effects as well and what to do if they become overwhelming. For instance, you may not be able to suddenly stop taking some drugs (such as corticosteroids); they need to be tapered.

• Learn about scheduling. To avoid interactions some drugs (and supplements) need to be taken hours apart. Write down these instructions from your pharmacist or doctor and keep them in a safe place.

• Ask about foods to avoid. You may not be able to eat certain foods when you're taking some medications. For instance, grapefruit contains compounds that may cause interaction with medications for certain conditions such as hypertension or anxiety.

• Don't start taking a new drug without advice. Contact your doctor or pharmacist to find out if there are any possible interactions with other medications, herbs or supplements you're taking.

• Learn more about possible drug interactions by visiting GeneMedRx, a tool co-created by Dr. Oesterheld and her colleague, Dr. Robert Patterson.

• Watch out for signs of addiction. Michael Jackson's death also raises the issue of addiction. If you're becoming dependent on drugs to solve a health problem - whether it's pain, insomnia, anxiety or any other issue - contact your doctor right away. One sign of dependence is needing higher and higher doses for the same effect.

Other signs of drug dependency or addiction, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

- feeling you need to take a drug several times a day

- keeping a constant supply of the medication

- being unable to stop taking the medication

- putting yourself or others at risk to get the drug, or when you're using it

- using the medication to cope with problems in your life.