Thursday, March 14, 2019

Prescription Medication Tips

Tens of thousands of people are killed each year by prescription medications.  This is higher than gun deaths, car accident deaths, and even suicide deaths.  In order to increase your safety with prescription medications, consider these tips:
  • Make a list of your current medications, including the name, dosage, when to take it, when to stop taking it if there is an end date, the doctor who prescribed it, and why was it prescribed.  Be sure you include all of the meds you take from ALL of your doctors.
  • Take a photo of each prescription bottle and keep them on your cell phone.
  • Understand how your prescription medications work (ER usually means extended release, many medications can’t be doubled up if you forget to take it, some meds will interact with others so both the doctor and pharmacist should check for interactions, etc).
  • If you have a pill but don’t know what it is, you can Google the number or letter found on the pill itself and it will come up with a photo, description, and name.
  • Keep track of any allergies you have to medications and have your doctor and pharmacist put this in their records.
  • If you have a negative reaction to a medication and immediately alert your doctor (reactions include swelling, hives, rash, nausea, etc).
  • Have a dispenser system set up to avoid forgetting or overdosing on your prescription meds (these range from prescription pill boxes with AM/PM on them to individualized and dated packets of medications to high-tech electronic dispensers).
  • Don’t stop taking meds until told to by your doctor (quitting antibiotics because you feel better not because you have reached the stop date can lead to drug resistant bacteria and some meds can have serious effects if you quit them suddenly instead of tapering them off).
  • Ask your doctor if the drugs you are taking have any special restrictions (some shouldn’t be taken with grapefruit juice, etc).
  • Tell your doctor about any special situations you have (recent overseas travel, tick bites, vitamins you take, OTC meds you take, illegal drugs you take, if you have suddenly started a strict diet, etc).
  • If refill prescriptions look different or have a different name on the bottle from previous prescriptions, ask your doctor or pharmacist why this is (it could be a generic drug instead of a name brand or it could be a mistake that could be deadly!).
  • Read the side effects for each prescription (you can Google this or read the documentation that comes with your meds) and note if any of these side effects happen to you.
  • Try to keep several day's worth of prescriptions in reserve (ie: don’t order them the day you are scheduled to run out of them).
  • Don’t try to extend your medication by taking half doses or cutting pills in half.
  • Ask if you can crush pills (some you can't) or take them in a different form (liquid) if you have a difficult time swallowing them.
  • Safeguard your medications (lock up opiods, keep meds in original bottles and all together in a cabinet, not on a counter. don't get your medication bottles mixed up with another family member's bottles, etc).
  • Don’t give your medications to others and don't borrow meds from other people.
  • Keep your meds out of the reach of kids, pets, and the family drug addict.
  • If you can’t afford your medications ask your doctor or pharmacists what your options are (some docs can give you sample packs, docs can prescribe generic rather than name rand drugs, and many drug companies have charity drug programs, etc).
  • Print out your list of medications and bring it to the doctor's office with you each time you go.
  • Read the warnings on your prescription medication bottles.  If it says take with food, take with food; if it says don’t drive, don’t drive.
  • Beware of the possibility of becoming addicted to some classes of drugs, particularly opiods.  Doctors are more careful these days with this problem but you can't be too careful.
  • Dispose of your medications properly (info here).

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