Whether you have a prescription that's taken once a day or several times a day, do you remember to take it as directed? According to a report published in 2012, more than 60 percent of American adults aren't taking medication properly. This is a serious issue; if you don't follow the instructions for prescribed medicines, you could develop more health issues such as worsening symptoms, you could see a faster progression of your illness, or you may even spread your illness to other people if it's contagious.
Taking Medication on Time
It may not seem convenient to take a pill every six hours or to remember to take a pill with a meal, but consistency is everything when it comes to ensuring the best outcome from a prescription.
When you take a drug, it's absorbed into your blood system, and the amount in your blood has to stay constant in order for it to be effective. If you forget to take a dose, the drug level drops and needs to build back up again when you finally take the next dose. If you're taking antibiotics, for example, this may mean that instead of your infection going away, it gets worse or becomes resistant to the medication.
Following the Instructions
In addition to adhering to the right schedule, your pharmacist may give you one or more of the instructions with your prescription:
- Take with food: Some medications are hard on your stomach, and food helps buffer your stomach lining. Food might also be necessary to help your body absorb the drug.
- Take two hours after eating (or take on an empty stomach): Food may prevent the drug from breaking down properly, making it less effective.
- Don't take with dairy products: Most foods are fine to eat with your medicine, but dairy products may stop the drug from breaking down properly.
- Do not drink grapefruit juice while taking this medication: Grapefruit juice can cause too much of the medication to stay in your body, so avoid drinking it while taking prescriptions with this warning.
- Do not drink alcohol while taking this drug: Alcohol may mix with the drug and cause serious side effects.
Taking Medication at the Right Time of Day
Some medicines prescribed once a day can be taken any time during the day as long as you're consistent — if you take it noon, you always have to take it at noon. But some drugs should be taken in the morning, such as furosemide, a diuretic (water pill). This drug makes you urinate, and if you take it too late, you'll be up all night going to the bathroom. Pills that make you drowsy should be taken in the evening to avoid affecting your daytime performance, and pills that make you more alert should be taken earlier in the day rather than later.
Finishing the Course
Certain types of medications — particularly antibiotics — are prescribed for a set length of time, and it's important that you complete the prescription. Often, you may feel better after only a few days of medication, but feeling better doesn't mean the infection or cause of your illness has gone away completely. Stopping your medicine too early could mean that it may come back even worse than it was before you saw your doctor.
Always check with your doctor before making any changes in how you take your prescription medications. Some drugs shouldn't be stopped suddenly, and you must gradually decrease the dose over a period of time to avoid any side effects or withdrawal symptoms.
Before you take your new prescription, ask your doctor or pharmacist when you should start feeling or seeing the drug's effects. If you remember to take medication as prescribed, but you don't feel any improvement, or you experience any troublesome side effects, speak with your doctor to see if you should continue with the medication. But overall, as long as you're taking your medication as instructed, you'll increase the chances of the treatment being successful.