Prescription Medications and You

For most back and neck pain sufferers, taking prescription medications has become a fact of life. But it's not always as easy as swallowing a pill. There are some important things you should be aware of when taking prescription medications that will help you receive their full benefit and avoid dangerous problems. Whether you take them every day or only once in a while, keep the following tips in mind.

Woman calling doctor about medicationsAsk and Ask and Ask!
When your doctor or nurse practitioner prescribes a new medication make sure you ask as many questions as you need. If you're the type of person who thinks of all the good questions after you leave the doctor's office, call back and ask away. Don't worry that you are bothering the doctor. That's part of their job! Besides, it's more important to understand all you need to know about the drugs you are taking than to feel bad about calling your doctor's office. Here is a list of questions you may want to ask when your doctor prescribes a medication for you:

• What is the name of the medication?
• Is it a brand name or a generic?
• When do I need to take it?
• How do I take it?
• How much to I take each time?
• How long will I need to be on this medication?
• Why do I need this? What is it supposed to do for me?
• Will I need a refill?
• What if I miss a dose?
• Will there be any side effects from this medication?
• Are there any risks to taking this medication?
• Do I need to avoid any types of food or drink while taking this medication?
• Do I need to avoid any activities while taking this medication?
• Is there any written information I can take home with me?

Do Tell
Along with all the asking, make sure you do some telling, too. Tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking. This includes other prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, even herbals or vitamin supplements, minerals, laxatives, pain relievers, or sleeping aids. It is very important that your doctor know what you are taking because some prescription medications do not interact well with other drugs. In fact, some drug interactions can be very dangerous.

Try to get all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. Then ask your pharmacist to print out a list of all your prescriptions. Keep this list with you each time you visit your doctor. This will help you remember what you are taking.

Be sure to also tell your doctor about any problems you are having with the prescription such as side effects, dosage, even the cost of the drugs. Maybe you would like a medication with fewer side effects, or fewer doses to take each day. If you have had a drug reaction in the past such as a rash, difficulty swallowing or breathing, hallucinations or nausea and vomiting, it is very important to speak to you doctor or nurse practitioner about these reactions. Talking about these issues with your doctor will help him or her to select the best medication for you.

Double Check
When you pick up your prescription from the pharmacy, read the label carefully. Make sure it's the correct medication that your doctor prescribed. Also, make sure the label has your name and address on it. If you have difficulties reading drug labels, ask the pharmacist to go over it with you. Most pharmacies give written information with the prescription. Don't throw these away - read them! They contain useful and important information about the medications you are taking.

Follow the Directions
Always take your prescription medications the way your doctor instructed. Do not change how often or how much you take unless you talk to your doctor first. Also, don't stop taking your medication unless your doctor says it's okay to do so. Many prescription drugs make symptoms disappear very quickly, but that doesn't always mean it's okay to stop taking them.

Sometimes the instructions on how often to take medications are confusing. Be sure you understand what the instructions mean. For example, if the directions say to take the medication every three or four hours, ask your doctor or pharmacist if that means throughout the night as well as during the day.

Use the correct measuring device, especially when taking liquid medications. Do not use household teaspoons or tablespoons, as they often do not hold a true measure. Instead, use a marked syringe or dosing spoon to ensure you are taking the correct amount.

Some products (called compliance aids) can help you remember when to take your medication and help you keep track of the doses you take. These aids include check-off calendars and caps that beep when it's time to take a dose. Ask your doctor about these products and if they are appropriate for you. Keep in mind that, while these products may help you to remember when to take your medicine, you still need to understand and follow your doctor's directions about how much to take.

Updated on: 03/21/16
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Safety First: Prescription Medications and You
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Safety First: Prescription Medications and You

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