Healthy Woman - Manage Your Medications
Managing medication can be complicated, particularly if you are taking several, and treating different conditions.
- It is important that you make sure you understand the exact dose and timing of each medication from your doctor when he or she prescribes it. Verify the information with your pharmacist when you have the prescriptions filled.
- If you go to different doctors for different conditions, it is extremely important to tell all of them about each medication you are taking. It may help to carry a list with you at all times. Ask your pharmacist for a medication wallet card that will help you keep an up-to-date list of your medications with you. Make sure your pharmacy has a record of all the medications that you take including any over-the-counter medications.
- Tell your all your doctors and your pharmacist if you have any allergies so they can also keep that important information in your records.
- Write your daily schedule for medications on a calendar or chart. Be sure to update the schedule each time your medication changes.
- Follow the schedule exactly, and take the exact dosage prescribed by your physician.
- Use a weekly or daily pill organizer--especially when taking several different medications--to help ensure that you get the right dose at the right time. Ask at your pharmacy to see what organizers are available.
- Keep medications in their original containers--except for those you put in an organizer. The labels contain important information such as medication name, dosage, doctor's name, and expiration dates.
- Do not take medication in the dark, when you are tired, or when you are distracted. You might take the wrong medication or too much. Ask for help, if needed, to find and take the correct medication.
- Alcohol can interact with many different kinds of drugs. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist whether it is safe to drink alcohol with any prescription or over-the-counter medication.
- When children or grandchildren are around, keep medication containers out of reach, particularly those that do not have childproof caps.
- Never take a medication that was prescribed for someone else. (See below for cautions about costs of taking medications not intended for you.)
- If your doctor has told you to discontinue a medication, dispose of it immediately. (See below for disposal recommendations.) Do not keep it for future needs. The cost of having side effects or a drug interaction if you accidentally take that medication would be greater than the cost of the medication.
- Dispose of a medication once the expiration date has passed. Always inquire at your pharmacy about any medication take back programs in your city. If one is not available, follow any specific disposal instructions on the drug label or patient information that accompanies the medication. If no instructions are given, crush and mix medications with coffee grounds, cat litter, or food scraps; seal them in a bag or a container (such as a margarine tub or jar) and discard them in the regular trash. There are some medications that are harmful and could be fatal if accidently taken by children or anyone else. Opioid pain medications (like Lortab, Vicodin, Percocet, Norco, Oxycontin, MS Contin, fentanyl, and others) should be flushed in the toilet. Ask your pharmacist if you are not sure how to dispose of your medications.
- Never stop taking a medication on your own--always get your doctor's guidance. Some medications must be stopped gradually to avoid complications.
- If the medication is making you feel sick or causing side effects that you find difficult to tolerate, talk to your doctor about adjusting the dose or changing the medication.
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Last reviewed: 4/9/2012