Non-Diabetes Drugs and Supplements That Affect Glucose Levels

A certified diabetes educator provides a list, and what to do to prevent a blood sugar swing caused by a new medication.



The main medicine people with Type 1 diabetes take on a daily basis is insulin, but did you know that other non-diabetes-related medications can affect your blood sugar, too? This side effect can create havoc on your glucose management if you don’t adjust your insulin levels to accommodate it.

Here’s a list of medications to consider:

Some common medications that can increase glucose levels:

  • Valium and Ativan (benzodiazepines)
  • Thiazide diuretics, which are taken as blood pressure medicine
  • The steroids cortisone, prednisone, and hydrocortisone
  • Birth control pills
  • Progesterone
  • Catecholamines, which include the EpiPen and asthma inhalers
  • Decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine
  • Niacin
  • Zyprexa and many other antipsychotic medications

Some common medications or supplements that can cause low glucose levels include:

  • Aspirin
  • Asian ginseng
  • Aloe
  • Magnesium salicylate
  • Quinine

(This is a partial list. Diabetes in Control has created a PDF of a more complete list, which you can find by clicking here.)

Each time you get a prescription for a new medication, try to read the info that comes with the medication or ask the pharmacist if they know about any effects the medicine might have on blood sugar levels. If you start to take any vitamins or herbal supplements, you should also mention these to your doctor so they can check if there are interactions.

If you’ll be using a medicine long-term, talk to your doctor about its effect on glucose levels and if there is an alternative that could be taken that has no effect. If not, work on a plan with your diabetes care team to evaluate the effect and, if necessary, come up with a way to counter it.

If a medication you need appears on this list or the Diabetes in Control list, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it. There just may need to be adjustments made to other diabetes medications to offset any effects.

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Jennifer Smith holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Biology from the University of Wisconsin. She is a registered and licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and certified trainer on most makes/models of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes since she was a child,and thus has first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day events that affect diabetes management.