Prescription drugs are a vital part of the American health care system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of all Americans use some type of prescription medication. This includes nine out of 10 older people.
While medication is meant to help, and in many cases it does, there are still some things individuals do that increase the chances of a serious complication related to their prescription drug usage, oftentimes accidental. The problem is that while the intent behind these particular actions may be innocent, the results can be disastrous.
Before you pick up your next prescription, consider whether you’ve engaged in any of these behaviors and make changes if necessary.
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Using Medicine Prescribed for Others
You know that you have a sinus infection coming on; you’ve had several dozen of them over the course of your life and can identify the signs at the first sniffle. Going to the doctor’s office is a hassle, so you just pop a few of the antibiotics left over from your husband’s dental surgery last month. Maybe you’re visiting a friend and suddenly you develop a major headache. Your friend offers you one of the painkillers he keeps on hand for his migraines.
It may be tempting to take one of these pills, especially when you have experience with a certain condition or illness, but taking medications that weren’t prescribed for you presents some serious risks. When your doctor writes a prescription, he bases the dosage on your unique characteristics, medication history, tolerance and the drug he feels will best meet your needs. A drug that was prescribed for someone else may not work well for you or may cause unintended side effects. So when it comes to prescription meds, only take those that were prescribed for you to prevent a potentially more serious problem.
Failing to Follow Instructions
Another dangerous problem associated with prescription drugs is failing to take the drugs as prescribed. Perhaps you’re taking an antibiotic and you feel better after four days, so you fail to take the last three days of medication. Or maybe the drug should be stored a certain way, taken with food or you need to avoid alcohol or the sun while you’re on it. Failing to follow these instructions could cause serious reactions or side effects — or diminish the potency of the medication altogether — so always follow your doctor’s exact instructions. If anything is unclear, ask questions.
Regularly Switching Pharmacies
The offers are tempting: Switch to this pharmacy and get a gift card. Switch here and your prescription is free. The problem? When you have prescriptions at multiple pharmacies, the pharmacist may not have access to your complete medication history. Thus, the chance of potentially dangerous medication interactions increases. If you must switch pharmacies, ask for a copy of your full prescription history to prevent problems.
Ordering From Unlicensed Online Pharmacies
In many cases, prescription drugs are expensive; for some people, the monthly bill is several thousand dollars. In an effort to save money, some people turn to online pharmacies, which often offer drugs at a greatly reduced rate. However, before you click “order”, do your due diligence. Some online pharmacies are unlicensed, selling drugs that are counterfeit, expired or even the wrong drug to unsuspecting customers. Use only licensed pharmacies or those recommended by your doctor or insurer to ensure you don’t end up with a potentially dangerous drug.
Failing to Be Your Own Advocate
You know your body and your health better than anyone else, but if you’re like many people, you trust health care providers to always do the right thing. Mistakes can happen, so before you take any drug, ask questions and learn as much as you can about the medication and what it is intended to do. Be sure you’ve explained all of your symptoms to your provider and that he or she is aware of any allergies or other drugs you’re taking, even herbal supplements. When you pick up your prescription, see that the label matches the prescription you received and that all of your information is correct. Being your own advocate and paying attention to your medications can prevent serious consequences.
Prescription drugs can do a lot of good, but when used incorrectly — even by accident — the consequences can be serious. Take steps to avoid these dangerous habits and you’ll stay on track to good health.