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9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Taking Medication

It seems to be rare these days to find a person who is not taking at least one prescribed medication.

Whether it is for high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, or even bipolar disorder, everyone seems to have a pill for some illness they are battling. Mental Health America states the importance of knowing medicines are not cures, they are treating the symptoms you have. In addition, medicines do not always work right away and need time to get the full effects, medicines can hold risks as well as benefits, and medicines are to be used in connection with an overall treatment plan, not as a solo option.

There are millions of people taking medications these days for relatively the same symptoms. There seem to be less individualized treatment plans and more generalized prescribing being put into action by doctors. And because doctors spend less time with patients, they are prescribing based on the word of the patient and not actual testing and assessment.

How Common Are Your Medicines Prescribed?

Is your medicine in the top prescribed list? If so, you will have access to a great deal of information and support when it comes to your medicine. If your medicine is less prescribed do not worry, there are still ample resources to help you get acquainted with your medicine.

In the United States, the most prescribed medicine is Synthroid, with around 21.5 million people using the medicine to treat thyroid issues. Crestor is the second highest with about 21.4 million people using it to treat cholesterol problems. Other medications that are prescribed to millions of people a year to treat disorders such as asthma and diabetes.

Synthroid has specific instructions on how and when to take it. Most doctors prescribe it to be taken in the morning, on an empty stomach. It is implied that taking other medications or food with Synthroid can negate the effectiveness of the drug. Crestor can be taken any time of day and with or without food.  However, it cannot be crushed or broken and you must wait at least 2 hours after you take Crestor before you take any sort of antacid due to it decreasing and possibly eliminating the effects of Crestor.

With asthma medicines such as inhalers, there are many specific instructions on how to use the inhaler, from how to open the equipment to how it needs to be held in your mouth for proper inhalation. You cannot put them in direct sunlight and they can’t be frozen. These will make the inhalers malfunction and unable to use properly. There are specific instructions on how to clean the inhalers as well.

As you can see, each and every medicine is different and requires different instructions to get the most beneficial effect. Rather than just gathering up all of your medications at once and swallowing them down with a soda, it may be helpful to learn a bit more about each to avoid any negative effects. If not taking some pills correctly, you may in fact be taking the dose for nothing.

Do You Know Everything About Your Medication?

Prevention is the best way to avoid any problems with taking medications.  Know everything you can about your medicines before taking them. Information you need to know before you start taking medications:

  • The name of the medicine and what it is supposed to do.
  • How and when to take the medicine, how much to take, and for how long. Ask about any terms or directions you do not understand.
  • What food, drinks, other medicines, or activities you should avoid while taking the medicine.
  • What side effects the medicine may have, and what to do if they occur.
  • Whether you can get a refill, and if so, how often.
  • What to do if you miss a dose.
  • Ask if there is written information you can take home. Most pharmacies have information sheets on your prescription medicines.
  • Tell your doctor of any concerns you have about using the medicine.
  • Tell your doctor if you are not taking your medicine as directed.

Talk before you take is a national campaign to get patients to do just that, talk to a professional to learn about the medicines you are taking. This is especially true for patients taking five or more medications may begin to see side effects and interactions. It is easier than you think to get your medicines mixed up, to forget which ones you have already taken, or to miss a medicine altogether. It is important to get organized to avoid such errors.

Are You Organized?

Avoid medication errors by doing these organizational tips first will help you simply your medicine routines and give you confidence that you are taking your medicines correctly:

  • Read the label. Follow the directions.
  • Have a plan for organizing your own medications or for giving medicines to others.
  • Choose over-the-counter medicines that match your symptoms.
  • Avoid taking multiple medicines that have the same ingredient(s); for example, do not take two medicines with acetaminophen.

Other ways to help you organize medicines include using a pill organizer, storing them alphabetically or by time of day they are to be taken, color coding them or even using a dry erase board to check off the medicines taken as the day goes along. Choose the best solution for your lifestyle. You may even want to set timers throughout the day to remind you to take your medicines. If any of these tips seem too difficult, as a friend or relative for assistance and get their help in giving you accurate doses at the right time of day. This can help you avoid taking medicines out of order, which can lead to dangerous consequences or at the least, causing medicines to become ineffective.

Are You Taking Medicines Out of Order?

Pfizer claims four out of ten older people do not take their prescriptions as they are prescribed. That equates to millions of people taking their medications the wrong way. This may be the reason people claim they still have symptoms or claim they have new symptoms created by the misuse of their medicines. Taking medicines out of order or missing doses can interfere with your body processing them so that they benefit you at their highest potential. For example, taking a pill at night that is supposed to be taken in the morning will give you the symptoms you desire but during the wrong part of your day.  You don’t want to take a medicine that gives you energy right before you go to bed. Also, some medicines require an empty stomach and a full glass of water to digest them and distribute them to your body.  But if you take them right after eating a big breakfast, the food with absorb the medicines and not your body. These are just a sample of the negative effects your body can experience when misusing medications.

Are You Misusing Your Medications?

Negative effects of misusing medications can include:

  • Health problems can occur when people misuse their medications because side effects can appear, as well as interactions between medicines can create unpleasant symptoms and long term problems if not addressed right away.
  • Addiction occurs in many patients who misuse their medications. They become their own doctor and get the mindset that if one pill doesn’t hurt them, then two surely won’t hurt them. Or, they think if one helps, four will help them even more. Before you know it they are taking too many pills and then run out way before their next prescription can be filled. This leads to horrible withdrawal symptoms and negates all positive treatments associated with the medicine. Misuse of medications can lead to abuse and addiction with devastating effects.
  • Accidents can and do happen. There are plenty of cases in which children picked up opiates that were lying around the house. Opiates look like candy to a child. They take the opiates, overdose, and sometimes die. Medicinal accidents and overdoses can also happen when people can’t remember if they took their pills for the day. They end up taking extra doses and wind up in the hospital or worse.
  • Poor performance can be caused by over-medicating or by medicinal interactions. It is not healthy to take an opiate along with a sleeping pill and muscle relaxer. If you think you are feeling slow and groggy and can’t think clearly, then the medicines are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. Make sure you know what your medicines are supposed to do so you don’t panic when you begin feeling the effects of the medicines you have taken.
  • Legal trouble arrives when you begin trying to get extra medicines by forging your doctor’s name on a prescription or by selling your medicines to a friend or family member. It is illegal for anyone to give away or sell their medications. If you no longer want to take the medicine, take them to your local pharmacist or police station and properly turn them over to the right authorities who can dispose of them according to the laws in your state. Do not flush them down the toilet or sink. The pills can then get in your water system and contaminate drinking water.

Are You Encountering Medication Errors?

There are a number of errors made when taking medications. The most common medication errors:

  • Taking too much
  • Confusing medications with one another
  • Medication interactions between one another
  • Food and drink interactions

Common medication errors happen with people who take insulin, opioids, and antibiotics. These are the three at the top of the list of medicines taken in error by consumers. Others include aspirins and blood thinners. It is frightening that pills such as a blood thinner or insulin, which are lifesaving medications, are taken in error so often. Missing medications can be just as dangerous.

Are You Missing Medications?

Medication adherence seems so simple yet many people find themselves missing doses for days at a time. Whether it is because they did not get a refill in time, they just didn’t feel like taking the medicines, or forgetfulness, people often do not adhere to a regular routine of taking their medicines.  This can be very dangerous. To avoid missing medications, getting them refilled on time is essential.  Pharmacists often urge customers not to wait until the very last minute to refill prescriptions, especially is a renewal is needed. If you did wait to the last minute, make sure you tell the pharmacist so they can put a rush on your renewal.  Many pharmacists will get a renewal for you from the doctor if you ask them to do so. Pharmacists are always a great resource when it comes to gaining information on your medicines. While medical doctors don’t always have time to spend with us to answer all of our questions, a Pharmacist can give you even more information about your medicines, including when and how to take them. It is important to ask for help when needed. Ask your health care professional, the pharmacist, hospital, or all of the above to help you understand the medicines you are taking.

Are You Storing Medications Correctly?

Many people simply throw all of their pill bottles into a bag and take them when they remember.  Believe it or not, where that bag is stored can make a difference as to whether or not the medications are effective. There are several elements to storing medicines properly. Temperature can affect medicines. Medicines damaged by temperatures being too hot or too cold can cause many negative effects. Anti-seizure medicines that are not stored correctly can’t prevent seizures. Diabetes medicines not stored correctly can make blood sugar levels stay out of balance and can lead to serious issues such as a diabetic coma in extreme cases.

Tips for storing medications properly include paying close attention to the directions on the bottle or from your pharmacist. Some medications require room temperature, some require refrigeration. Some require light, some dark. There are just as many tips on how to store medications when traveling. Keep medicines in their original packaging. Take them on the plane rather than in your suitcase and under the plane where temperatures are not monitored. If shipping them, have them overnighted.

Are You Taking Medicines at the Same Time Each Day?

The Cleveland Clinic urges a person to not only take medicines at the same time each day, but to also never crush or break medicines unless a doctor has instructed you to do so. It is also important to take medicines with or without food and beverages, based on the instructions given to you by the doctor or pharmacist.

Meditate Before You Medicate: Mindfulness and Pain Relief

So by now you know that mindfulness is practicing being completely present and aware of your thoughts and sensations. That being said, would it surprise you that mindfulness is a growing tool for pain relief and management? While that might sound counterintuitive, it’s proven to be very effective for patients ranging from mind discomfort to chronic pain. Do you or someone you love struggle with body pains in in your daily life? This guided mindfulness meditation from leading mindfulness expert John Kabat-Zinn is a great place to start. 10 minutes of mindfulness can relax your emotional response to the sensations. Give it a try, or share this video with someone you know could use some relief.

As you can see, there are plenty of factors to consider when taking medications properly. From where they are stored, to the time of day they should be taken, to when and how often they are to be taken are all serious concerns. The biggest tip you can implement to make sure you are properly taking your medications is to make sure you are organized. Find the best organizational solution for your medicines and make sure you have a way of documenting which medicines have been taken and when throughout the day to avoid over or undertaking medications. Getting assistance from a friend or family member or even the pharmacist will be of great benefit in helping you stay on track with taking medications and getting the full benefits of each medicine. The more you know about your medicines, the more successful you will be.