A common misconception in western culture is that prescription medications are the cure all end all for everything. And, in a lot of cases, they do cure a whole lot. However, ingesting any sort of pharmaceutical can be risky when done improperly–even something that can be purchased over the counter for everyday things like a headache. And, although some people can’t trust themselves to always remember to take their daily medications properly or on schedule, there’s always the comfort in knowing that their highly-trained physician has given them just the correct dose of the right stuff to treat their problems.
Unfortunately, there’s always risks. Anyone who ever has seen a commercial for any sort of medicine out on the market (which is pretty much everyone because I feel like half of the commercials during the evening news are for pharmaceuticals) knows that the list of warnings at the end is so long and swiftly spoken that it’s about as hard to keep up with as the ramblings of a high-energy auctioneer.
According to the CDC, there were 43,982 total drug overdoses in 2013. 6,235 were from heroin…but 16,235 deaths were caused from pain-relieving prescription drugs.
What you should know about prescription meds
1. The pharmacy might make a mistake…and it happens more than you would think.
The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) is a nonprofit organization that tracks medication errors in Horsham, Pennsylvania. One of their statistics they found stated that one out of twenty of the prescriptions filled at a pharmacy contained an error. Why does this happen? Pharmacists might choose the wrong drug name from their computer’s drop down menu or simply misread the bottle. It makes sense when you think about it because, there are a lot of prescription names that sound similar. Case in point, a nail infection sufferer whose doctor writes them a script for “Lamisil” may end up accidentally giving them a drug used for seizures with the close-but-no-dice name, “Lamictal.”
2. Believe it or not, you should actually pay attention to the FDA warning.
Most people don’t bother to even smell the roses on a nice spring day anymore. So it’d be pretty naive to think that we’re going to bother reading the boring mumbo-jumbo that accompanies of prescription medication. I mean, most people weren’t majoring in biology in college and even if we did, it still might as well be in Mandarin Chinese. It’s complex jargon. But, you know what’s crazy? The warnings are there for a reason. And, it’s in your best interest to find out all the details for your own safety.
So what should we do when we don’t understand the info that accompanies our drugs? Simply ask. When you pick up your medication, seek clarification from the helpful person at the counter or your physician all the important facts you’d need to know such as:
- “Can you take it on an empty stomach?”
- “What time(s) a day should you take it? How often?”
- “Are there ramifications if mixed with alcohol?”
- “Will it impair my driving?”
- “When should I stop taking it?”
- “Can it be used with my other medications?”
3. Just because it was prescribed, doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you when mixed together with other prescriptions or OTC drugs.
Some Americans have lists of prescription medications longer than my grocery list. Everyone should consult their physician before taking on any new prescriptions, over-the-counter remedies, and dietary supplements to avoid the dramatic risks that can be associated by mixing them together. One example is that if you take an anti-allergy drug/antihistamine with a sleep medication, even if it was the night before, you might not be able to do normal things like operate a car.
4. Storing medication wrong or keeping them past their expiration is a big no-no.
Medications should be stored in a cool, dry place as heat and moisture can destroy them. If aspirin gets broken down, it can irritate the lining of the stomach. Also, it’s important to remember to keep them in their original container with the label intact. Most people tend to keep their medicine in a medicine cabinet above their sink. However, to avoid the moisture and heat near places like sinks or hot appliances, it’s best to store them in a place like a dresser drawer or a closet.
Additionally, you shouldn’t keep old medications and they should be disposed of properly.
5. In some states, you can get hit with a DUI from taking medications for your health—even if they were taken as indicated by a healthcare professional.
7/10 Americans at any given time are probably walking (or driving) around on their prescription medications at any given time. However, a big legal issue is happening to people who are just doing what the doctor told them to. In fact, a lot of people in places like Pennsylvania find that they can be hit with DUI penalties just like someone who was operating a vehicle with a BAC of .16 or higher from being under the influence of their lawfully obtained prescription.