Taking Medications as Prescribed

If you take medications regularly, you probably know how easy it can be to miss a dose or take the wrong dose by accident. You also may know how tempting it can be to adjust or skip doses on your own, without your doctor’s consent.

Although it may not seem like a big deal, failing to take your medication properly can have a negative impact on your treatment. By not closely following doctor’s orders, the drug won’t work as well as it should or, worse, could actually pose a threat to your health.

Fortunately, learning more about how to take your medication properly can go a long way. You may hear your doctor use the term “medication adherence.” This term means taking the proper dose of medication at the right time and in the right way for as long as you’re supposed to. For example, your doctor may advise you to take one pill with food, morning and night, until further notice. To properly “adhere” to these instructions, you must take the right amount of medication (1 pill)—no more and no less—with food twice a day at the correct times. Adjusting these instructions at all, like taking a pill just once a day or not taking it with food, could cause the drug not to work or could cause you harm.

If you’re having trouble taking medications properly or are experiencing side effects, be sure to discuss these concerns with your doctor. He or she can give you tools and advice. He or she also may adjust your medication accordingly, like having you take a different dosage pill once a day rather than twice a day. If you’re having side effects from the medication, your doctor can help evaluate whether or not adjustments should be made to your regimen. However, you should never make adjustments to medications yourself. Always consult first with your health care professional.

Lastly, if you are having trouble sticking to your regimen, try out some well-known tips that help improve your habits:

  • Develop a medication schedule so that it becomes part of your daily routine. Take medication right after eating breakfast, or right before going to bed.
  • Create reminders for yourself in whatever way works best for you—notes, checklists, journals or alarms.
  • Ask family and friends to remind you to take your medication regularly, as they can be a great source of support.

Infographic: Medication Adherence

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