Taking medication is an essential part of maintaining health for many people. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines can help treat and prevent illness properly.
However, mistakes in medication use are surprisingly common and can lead to serious health consequences. Being aware of potential medication errors and taking steps to avoid them is crucial.
Let’s discuss some of the most common medication mistakes to look out for.
1. Stopping Medications too Soon
When symptoms finally start improving, some patients assume it is safe to stop taking medication earlier than prescribed. However, prematurely stopping antibiotics, steroids, or other drugs can lead to the condition returning even worse than before or cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
For example, stopping antidepressants suddenly can trigger suicidal thoughts, dizziness, nausea, and flu-like symptoms. Even if you feel completely better, you must finish the entire medication course precisely as directed by your healthcare provider. Never stop taking prescription drugs without your doctor’s approval, even if you no longer need them.
2. Not Understanding the Risks
Before starting any new medication, it is essential to understand the potential risks and side effects involved. Many people wrongly assume that over-the-counter drugs are entirely harmless.
However, even the most common medications can cause severe damage if misused or taken in excess. Taking the time to carefully read all drug labels, information sheets, and the patient leaflet inside medication boxes is crucial to avoid unpleasant consequences.
Sometimes, drug manufacturers fail to disclose the side effects of a drug, or unforeseen outcomes occur due to its consumption.
If you or a loved one has been affected by a legal medication, you may be owed compensation from the manufacturer or the seller. In such cases, you can look into dangerous drug lawsuits and hire professionals.
3. Excessive Consumption
Exceeding the recommended dosage of any medication can have disastrous results. There are a few ways overconsumption can occur. These include taking more pills per dose than directed by your doctor, taking doses way too frequently or closer together than instructed, or doubling up on doses if one is missed or you want quicker results.
Overconsumption of seemingly harmless over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can potentially lead to gastrointestinal bleeding or ulcers, kidney damage, heart attacks, strokes, and other serious health emergencies requiring hospitalization.
4. Incorrect Storage and Disposal
Medications can lose their effectiveness or become contaminated if not stored properly. It is essential to keep all drugs in their original containers unless your pharmacist transfers them to a daily pill organizer.
Always store medications in cool, dry places according to the temperature instructions on the label. Bathroom cabinets are often too humid. Never keep medications in direct sunlight or near heat sources like stoves.
Also, be sure to regularly check expiration dates and properly dispose of any expired or unused medicines. Keep all the drugs in childproof containers and out of children’s reach.
Avoid flushing medications down the toilet or throwing them away if possible. Instead, check if your pharmacy or community has a medication take-back program that safely disposes of unneeded prescription drugs.
5. Not Following Instructions
Some medications require taking doses with food rather than on an empty stomach to minimize adverse side effects like gastrointestinal upset, nausea, or vomiting. However, other drugs may be better absorbed on an empty stomach for maximum effectiveness.
Always carefully check the instructions or ask your pharmacist whether your medicines must be taken with a full glass of water and food or if they should be taken on an empty stomach. Taking them incorrectly could lead to reduced efficacy or increased risk of side effects.
6. Dangerous Food or Drug Interactions
Grapefruit juice, for instance, is known to interact dangerously with several medications by inhibiting enzymes needed to metabolize the drugs.
This can cause a buildup of excessive drug levels in the body. Other citrus fruits, alcohol, blood thinners, and specific medications could also lead to harmful interactions.
These food-drug and drug-drug interactions can cause medications not to work properly or as intended. When taken together, they also increase the risk of adverse reactions and side effects.
Ask your doctor and pharmacist about any dietary restrictions or substances to avoid when prescribed new medications or before taking over-the-counter medicines.
7. Missing Doses
Failing to take medications as prescribed, on schedule, and at the proper frequency reduces their effectiveness.
Antibiotics, in particular, require strict adherence to the dosage schedule to combat infections entirely. The bacteria can become resistant if doses are missed or people stop taking antibiotics too soon.
Set phone reminders, alarms, and calendar alerts, or use weekly pill organizers to take medications on time and exactly as your healthcare provider directs.
Never double up on missed doses unless explicitly instructed to do so. Always consult your pharmacist or doctor if you have trouble adhering to your prescribed medication regimen so they can assist you.
8. Taking Someone Else’s Medication
Never take pills prescribed for another person. Even if you are both taking the same medication and dosage, differences in medical history, metabolism, weight, diet, and other factors can make sharing or using someone else’s medicine extremely dangerous. A dosage safe for one person may be toxic for someone else.
Only take medications prescribed explicitly by your doctor and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist with your name on it.
9. Taking too many Medications
The more medications someone takes regularly, the higher their risk of problematic drug interactions, unintended side effects, medication errors, and accidental overdoses.
As we age, the number of prescriptions often increases, and polypharmacy becomes more common. This makes keeping track of medications essential.
Maintain an up-to-date list of every single drug you take. Inform all your healthcare providers about everything you take so they can watch for potential interactions.
Take the minimum necessary number of medications and have your doctors periodically reevaluate your need for any drugs that can be discontinued.
Medication mistakes are alarmingly common, but being vigilant can reduce the likelihood of errors. Always follow dosing instructions carefully, watch out for dangerous interactions, and consult with your doctor if you have any concerns when starting a new drug.
Staying informed about your medications is the best way to avoid potentially life-threatening mistakes and ensure your medicines help, not harm, your health. With caution and care, medications can be taken safely and effectively.