Your Medications: True or False?
Prescription and nonprescription drugs help seniors manage a variety of health conditions. They preserve both life and quality of life. Of course, they only work if we take them properly. How much do you know about your medications?
- True or False? If my doctor prescribes a drug, and then I start to feel better, it’s OK to stop taking it.
- False. Unless the drug is to be taken “as needed,” you shouldn’t discontinue it without asking your doctor first. If you stop before finishing the full amount prescribed, this could make your condition worse.
- True or False? If I notice side effects, I should stop taking my medication right away.
- False. Report side effects promptly, but check with your doctor first before discontinuing a drug. Your doctor might switch you to a different drug, change your dose, or have suggestions about how to take the medication.
- True or False? I should ask my doctor before taking any supplements.
- True. Your doctor can tell you if vitamins, herbal preparations, and other supplements are safe for you to take—and warn you if a supplement is worthless, dangerous, or might interact with your other medications.
- True or False? I should be cautious when ordering medications online.
- True. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises consumers to order online only from a pharmacy that requires a doctor’s prescription, has a physical address and phone number in the U.S., has a licensed pharmacist on staff, and is licensed with the patient’s state board of pharmacy.
- True or False? If I can’t afford my medications, I should talk to my doctor.
- True. Your doctor might switch you to a less expensive drug, or refer you to a program that can help with the cost of your medications.
- True or False? If I have an infection, my doctor should always prescribe an antibiotic.
- False. Not all infections can be treated with an antibiotic. And needless prescribing of antibiotics leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is a major global health issue. Your doctor can recommend alternative treatments.
- True or False? My doctor is the only medical professional who can educate me about the medicines I take.
- False. Your pharmacist also can be an excellent source of information about your medications, how to take them, and any other questions you may have. When you get an information sheet with a prescription, be sure to read it.
- True or False? My doctors all communicate with each other about my medications.
- False. While today’s electronic health records make it easier to coordinate patient care, it’s still possible for patients to be taking medicines that cause dangerous side effects when taken together, especially if more than one doctor is prescribing those medications. A medication review can help avoid this, as can using a single pharmacy.
- True or False? If I take an opioid medication just to treat pain, not to get high, I could still become addicted.
- True. There was a myth not so long ago that people who took morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine or another opioid drug exclusively for the purpose of treating pain would not become dependent. Today’s opioid crisis shows that this was not true! Only take these drugs under careful medical supervision.
- True or False? To help me remember to take my medications, I should store them on the countertop.
- False. Store medicines as directed, and in a safe place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that each year, 50,000 children go to the ER after getting into medicines when an adult isn’t looking. Any many people who misuse opioids and other substances get them from older relatives.
- True or False? The best way to dispose of unwanted drugs is to flush them down the toilet.
- False. Environmental experts now know that many drugs can pass through water treatment plants and enter rivers, lakes, fish—and our drinking water supply. Ask your pharmacist about the best way to get rid of a drug that is outdated or unneeded.
- True or False? If I’ve been taking a particular medication for a long time, I should just keep taking it.
- True … and false. You might need to take some medicines for life, and your doctor is the one to decide that. But each year, ask your doctor to review all the medicines you take, from all your doctors, and including over the counter and herbal preparation. Today there is a trend toward “deprescribing” drugs that might have negative side effects—and which a senior might not need.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your health care provider. If you have any questions about your medications, ask your doctor.