10 Ways to Safely Use Prescription Drugs

Updated: Apr. 06, 2020

1. Ask Questions Before leaving the doctor’s office with a new prescription, make sure you understand why the medicine is

1. Ask Questions
Before leaving the doctor’s office with a new prescription, make sure you understand why the medicine is being prescribed, how long it will take before it starts working, how you should take it, what side effects you should expect, and whether you should change any of your normal activities (such as driving or spending time in the sun) while taking it.

2. Keep a List of the Medications You Take
For each medication, include the drug’s generic and brand name, the dosage, the name of the doctor who prescribed it, when to take it, and any special instructions (such as taking it with food or first thing in the morning).

3. Read the Leaflet Provided by the Pharmacist
Most of us just throw this piece of paper away, but it contains valuable information about side effects and drug interactions. These days, they’re even written in plain English!

4. Stick With One Pharmacy
Most pharmacies today have electronic databases that can instantly tell if a newly prescribed medication will interact with one you’re already taking. They can also track any drug-related allergies. If you fill your medications at different drugstores, there’s no way to track this information.

5. Talk to the Pharmacist
Pharmacists are founts of information when it comes to medications. When you are prescribed a new medicine, ask the pharmacist about any dangerous side effects or warning signs, and let him know about any other medical problems you have. Some medications can make certain conditions worse, something your doctor may miss.

6. Request a “Brown Bag Review”
When visiting a new doctor, and at least once a year with your regular doctor, schedule an appointment for a review of your medications. Put everything you take (including vitamins, supplements, herbs, and over-the-counter medications) into a bag and bring them with you to the appointment. The doctor can make sure that you still need all the drugs and also identify any interactions or overlaps — different drugs that perform the same function.

7. Take as Directed
Even if you’re feeling fine, take the medicine as your doctor prescribed.

8. Stay In Touch
Call your doctor if you experience bothersome side effects, don’t feel better after the medication is supposed to have started working, or have trouble taking the medicine. Don’t wait for your next visit.

9. Check the Expiration Date
If your doctor prescribed a sleeping pill 4 years ago and you’re now experiencing another bout of insomnia, check the expiration date. Some medications may lose some of their potency starting a few months after the expiration date has passed. If the drug is expired, it’s probably time for a visit to your doctor anyway to make sure the medication is still appropriate for you.

10. Store It Right
Some medicines should be stored in the refrigerator, others on a cool shelf. The worst place to keep your meds is in a humid, steamy bathroom.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest