In the world of pharmaceuticals, there’s a simple truth: staying up to date on your medications goes hand in hand with positive health outcomes.
Proper medication adherence directly addresses underlying conditions, alleviates symptoms, and prevents disease progression. So, no matter what medication you’re prescribed, you need to know how and when to take it, as directed by your doctor.
Unfortunately, medication nonadherence is a common problem. When patients don’t fully understand the importance of their medication, they may forget or decide not to take it – and that can result in serious complications.
In the worst cases, an estimated 125,000 patients die annually from cardiovascular disease due to medication nonadherence. There are many potential outcomes from improperly using medications, and none of them are safe.
If you’re taking a prescribed medication, it’s important that you adequately learn about the drug. To help you out, this guide addresses everything you need to know when starting a new medication.
1) Ask the Right Questions
When consulting your healthcare provider before starting a new medication, ask the right questions to ensure you understand it thoroughly. Some of the most important things you can ask include:
- What is the medication for?
Knowing why you’re taking a medication helps you align your expectations with the desired outcomes. For example, if your healthcare provider prescribes a statin, it’s likely because you need to lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Knowing that will help you understand if it has an impact on your cholesterol or if you notice other unexpected side effects.
- How and when does the doctor want you to take the medication?
Define how often and at what time you should be taking your medication. Many medication regimes involve following a precise daily schedule.
Additionally, you should understand if you need to take your medication on an empty stomach, with plenty of water, or after you’ve eaten. This is not only useful for your health outcomes but can help keep you on track with your medication regimen.
- When will the medicine start working and how long does it take?
Before beginning a new treatment, inquire about when the medication will start working and how long it might take for you to notice any effects. This allows you to manage your expectations and gauge the treatment’s effectiveness.
If you know that the drug might take a few weeks to generate noticeable effects, you won’t feel as frustrated or confused if you don’t notice changes immediately. In contrast, if you experience unexpectedly sudden effects from a medicine that should take months to work, you may be able to determine that you’re having an early adverse reaction.
- What side effects should you expect?
Knowing potential medication side effects empowers you to monitor your body’s response and seek prompt medical attention if needed. For instance, if you’re prescribed a pain reliever, your healthcare provider can inform you about common side effects like stomach upset or dizziness, enabling you to differentiate between expected and severe reactions.
- How can you minimize any potential unwanted side effects?
If your medication comes with common side effects, you should equip yourself with the right information to help manage your symptoms. Small changes in diet, lowering stress levels, or other factors may be beneficial, especially while adjusting to the new medication.
2) Follow Precise Dosage Instructions
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of first-dose precautions. The truth is that patients who adhere to prescribed medication dosages and scheduling will make the most out of their healthcare regime – and avoid the worst of the risks.
While missing a dose here and there is normal, it shouldn’t become a habit. If you do skip a dose, act promptly. Consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist for guidance on whether to take the missed dose, adjust your dosing schedule, or proceed with the next scheduled dose. Remember to avoid doubling doses unless advised by your doctor.
Adherence to prescribed medication schedules is crucial for optimal treatment outcomes. Habitually skipping medication is dangerous and can cause withdrawal side effects, discomfort, and worsened treatment results. In some cases, continuously missing doses can even lead to treatment failure.
3) Properly Store and Handle the Medication
How you interact with and organize your medicines matters when beginning a new treatment.
More specifically, factors like temperature, light exposure, and humidity can profoundly impact drug storage. For proper medication safety, keep it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or moisture. High temperatures can alter chemical compositions, while light and humidity can degrade compounds or encourage bacterial growth.
You should also ask how to dispose of unused or expired medications correctly. Consult your pharmacist or follow local guidelines to prevent accidental ingestion and environmental contamination.
By prioritizing these practices, you will safeguard your health and contribute to the efficacy of your treatment regimen.
4) Know When to Seek Help
Lastly, understand when it’s time to seek assistance if you’re starting a new medication. This helps you prioritize your well-being and prevent regression or serious side effects before they worsen.
As your treatment continues, follow-up appointments serve as crucial checkpoints to monitor your progress. They allow healthcare professionals to assess how your body responds to the medication, make necessary adjustments, and address any other concerns as they appear.
If you encounter side effects while taking new medications, don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance. Some side effects are expected, but severe or persistent ones might indicate a need for medication adjustments. Your healthcare provider will help you balance the benefits and risks.
Additionally, keep a wary eye out for the red flags of allergic reactions. Symptoms like rash, swelling, difficulty breathing, or sudden dizziness could indicate an allergic response. If you experience these, stop the medication and immediately seek medical attention.
Another essential precaution: having an emergency plan and informing family members about your medication regimen. Your healthcare team and loved ones are your allies in this journey. Open communication about your medication empowers you to make informed decisions, but it also ensures other people will notice when something is wrong.
Have a Question About Your Prescription Med? Visit Klingensmith’s
For the sake of your mental and physical health, always get fully informed before starting a new medication. Prescriptions are complex – it takes extra effort to fully learn their purpose, expected side effects, proper dosage, and storage needs.
The more you know, the more you’re in control of your own health.
We’re here to help, so don’t hesitate to reach out to Klingensmith’s staff or pharmacists if you have any questions about your new prescription.