02 Aug Health & Wellbeing Newsletter – August 2021
Safe medication use
Medication must be used properly to help avoid problems such as unwanted effects and other adverse reactions. It is important to understand your medication instructions to make sure you take them correctly.
Read and follow your medication instructions
Medication instructions tell you exactly what the medication is designed to treat, how and when you should take it, where to store it and what side effects have been reported. They also advise of any contraindications (situations when a medication, procedure or surgery should not be used because it may be harmful to you).
This information can be provided to you by your doctor and pharmacist, and in the information page provided inside most medication packaging, as well as in Consumer Medicine Information leaflets about your specific medication.
Taking your medication safely
Your doctor will monitor your prescription medication, but you need to make sure you follow your medication instructions, including:
- Take all medication exactly as instructed by your doctor or pharmacist.
- Do not take medication prescribed for someone else.
- Learn about your medication and know the importance of taking your medicine correctly.
- When buying over-the-counter medication, ask your pharmacist about side effects and interactions with other medication (including vitamins and supplements) you are taking.
- If you are not confident that you will remember the instructions for taking the medication (such as dosage and time of day), write them down, or ask your doctor or pharmacist to write them down.
- If you are taking multiple medications or find you are forgetting if you have taken a dose, talk to your pharmacist about dosage aids (such as a Dosette box, which makes it easy to divide your medication into days of the week. Some include times of day as well).
- Ask your doctor if making changes to your lifestyle (such as diet and exercise) could reduce your need for medication.
- Ask your doctor if you may benefit from a Home Medicines Review. This is where a pharmacist reviews all the medication you take, and it can be done annually. You may be able to stop taking medication you no longer need.
- Throw out unwanted and out-of-date medication, as the active ingredient may no longer be effective. You can also return it to your pharmacy for safe disposal.
- Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without discussing it with your doctor. If it is not working for you, speak with your doctor about an alternative.
Storing medication safely
Some medication can deteriorate if it is stored in an area that is exposed to sunlight, too hot or has too much moisture (such as a bathroom). Some medication (for example, some probiotics and eye drops) needs to be stored in the fridge. Ask your pharmacist about any special storage instructions.
Regularly check the use-by dates on your medication (including prescription, non-prescription and complementary medicines) and throw out any that have expired.
Medication side effects – common causes
Some of the common causes of side effects from medication include:
- not taking the correct dose – such as taking too much or too little
- not taking it the right way – such as without food or at the wrong time of day
- allergic reactions to the chemicals in the medication
- mixing the medication with alcohol
- mixing one type of medication with another – this includes over-the-counter medication, vitamins and herbal supplements, prescription and non-prescription therapies and illegal drugs
- taking out-of-date medication or medication you no longer need
- taking someone else’s prescription medication
Some medication can cause problems in people with other conditions. Before taking any new medication or therapy, let your doctor or pharmacist know if you:
- are taking any other medication, including over-the-counter medication, vitamins and herbal supplements, prescription and non-prescription therapies and illegal drugs
- drink heavily
- are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive
- are allergic to a particular medication
- have a stomach condition
- have kidney, liver or cardiac (heart and blood vessel) disease
All medication has the potential to cause unwanted side effects. Skin rashes and nausea are common reactions. However, whether a reaction is caused by the medication or the illness that it is used to treat can sometimes be difficult to tell.
If you have a severe reaction to any medication, seek medical help immediately.
Mixing alcohol and medication
Drinking alcohol with some medication can also cause unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects, such as drowsiness with some antihistamines or antidepressant medication. This can be particularly important for drivers to consider.