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Doctors cannot read your mind and know what's important to you. You have to speak up about everything that's relevant about your health and life -- as well as your preferences with respect to drugs. Remind the doctor of the important points each time a new drug is prescribed.

Tell your doctor everything that could impact your health, no matter how embarrassing you think it is. Let the doctor decide what's important and what's not important.

Tell the doctor:

  • About all the medications you take. Give the doctor a list of your medications or at least remind the doctor of the list if a new drug is being prescribed. See List of Medications.
  • If your religion will interfere with taking drugs on a particular day or for a period of time. 
  • If you are on an unusual diet, taking dietary supplements or considering a new diet. Many foods and nutrients may interact harmfully with drugs.
  • Herbs, vitamins and supplements you take. Herbs can also interfere with some medications. For example, St. Johns Wort and garlic supplements affect the potency of some drugs used to treat HIV.
  • About your use of recreational drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Recreational drugs could interfere with the safety or effectiveness of a particular medication.
  • About allergies to drugs or foods.
  • About stressors in your life -- as well as how you deal with them.
  • If you are breast-feeding or may be pregnant.
  • Side effects or adverse reactions you have had to other medications or treatments.
  • All your medical conditions and any pertinent medical history. This is especially important if you are seeing a new doctor or are under the care of more than one doctor.
  • If you have difficulty with the way a medication is to be administered. For example, do you have a problem swallowing large pills, or using a suppository? Your doctor may be able to provide you with suggestions for using the medication, or recommend a medication that uses another route of administration. Or perhaps s/he has a compounder who could help by changing the form of the dosage.
  • If you consume a lot of caffeine regularly. Caffeine may affect your medications, either positively by lessening some side effects or negatively by moving a drug through your system faster than normal. (Don't forget that in addition to the sources we normally think of such as coffee, tea and high energy drinks, caffeine may also be found elsewhere such as in chocolate.)
  • If you are concerned about costs. Costs are more than just the cost of the drug. In fact, the drug may be the least expensive part. the key is overall cost, including doctor visits or tests that may be required just because of taking a particular drug. While most doctors don't think about it, keep in mind that cost also includes the cost of treating symptoms. Don't hesitate to remind your doctor of these facts! (Ask your doctor if there are home tests that you could use to monitor your health instead of tests at her/his office which take up your time, the doctor's or the doctor's staff's time, and are likely to be more expensive. If there are such tests, does the doctor consider them reliable? In what circumstances would s/he not use them? What test result would act as a trigger for you to call for an appointment?)
  • If you are concerned about putting more medication in your body than necessary, in which case you want the minimum dosage that will do the job and for the shortest possible period of time. This is particularly important for women (who generally weigh less than men) and older people (whose bodies may not function the same way as younger people.) To learn more, see: Overmedication.
  • Your preferences when it comes to drugs -- such as whether a clear head is more important than pain.