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How To Take Drugs Appropriately


To take drugs appropriately, consider the following guidelines:
  • Follow directions. 
    • Follow the directions that came with the drug -- for instance, whether to take with or without food. If there is a question, ask your pharmacist or your doctor.
    • Don't take more of a drug than is prescribed. A drug which is safe for you when taken at one dosage level, may become dangerous when too much is taken.
    • Likewise, don't take less of a drug than is prescribed. It may actually be harmful. For instance, if antibiotics aren't taken for the entire prescribed period, they may leave you more open to a more dangerous form of the infection for which you took the drug in the first place.
  • Look before you swallow.
    • Always look at your medication before taking it. Do not take medicine that has become discolored, has a strange odor, or seems suspicious in any other way.
    • Never take medications in the dark. You may take the wrong pill. Although this may sound obvious, each year it is responsible for a number of medication errors in the home.
  • Stay on schedule. There's a good medical reason for the schedule.
    • Comply with the prescribed schedule. There is a reason for drug schedules being what they are. For tips that help other people comply with a drug schedule, see Compliance: Why And How To Take Drugs As Prescribed.
    • Do not let travel interfere with compliance with a drug regimen. To learn how, see Travel.
  • Do not stop taking a drug early because you are feeling better or do not like the side effects.
    • If side effects become a problem, check to see if a practical remedy will help by searching on the name of the side effect in the search box at the top of the page. If side effects continue to be a problem, speak with your doctor about how to resolve them.
    • Prescribed Drugs: Check with your doctor before stopping, particularly for drugs you are advised to take for a set period of time. This can be especially important with antibiotics and steroids. Many people stop taking a medication once they are feeling "back to normal." Not taking the entire prescription of some drugs can lead to a relapse of your illness, and may even lead to drug resistance, making future treatment more difficult.
  • Keep track of test results and other markers so you can help monitor your progress. If it helps, consider the markers part of your medical records. (Yes, it is advisable to keep your own copy for a variety of reasons.)
    • If your blood is tested regularly to monitor a particular medication, don't switch between different versions of the drug without informing the person who administers the test. Also don't switch between labs without realizing that results from the same test can show up differently in different labs.
  • Do not take a break from a drug (a "drug holiday") on your own. If you want to take a break, discuss it first with your doctor.
  • Do a periodic medicine check-up to be sure you are supposed to continue to take the drugs you do - and that they don't conteract each other.
    • In addition to check ups with your doctor, you can do a periodic medicine check-up with a pharmacist that has a list of all your drugs. The check up can be as easy as a telephone call to the pharmacist.
    • Ask the pharmacist to look for:
      • Duplicates
      • Contradictory or outdated medication
      • Appropriate dosages.
      • Whether you can discontinue one or several of the drugs.
    • This is also a good time to compare total price of your drugs to see if your current method is the least expensive or if you should consider an alternative. For information about saving money when buying and using drugs, click here. 
  • Watch drug expiration dates. If you have drugs which are past the expiration date indicated on the label, check with your doctor to find out if the older drugs you have can become harmful past the expiration date or only potentially ineffective.
    • Studies indicate that many drugs continue to be potent well beyond the expiration dates set by the manufacturer.  In fact, the dates set by manufacturers only indicate the minimum expiration date. Manufacturers do not generally test potency long term.
    • Check with your doctor to find out is the older drugs you have can become harmful past the expiration date or only potentially ineffective.
    • If the drug just stops working in time, consider the risks and rewards of continuing to take an expired drug. 
    • For more information about expired drugs, click here
  • Get rid of unused drugs safely. (See Unused Drugs)
  • If you move drugs from the prescription bottle to an organizer or otherwise, consider keeping at least one of each different drug in the bottle in case you have a question about what pill is what medication. If there are no more medications in the prescription bottle, you can learn the identity of a pill by shape, color and markings online at websites such as: offsite link

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