We all know that prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications are an important part of healthcare in America. These medications help us in many ways by relieving symptoms, curing infections and treating chronic diseases. However, when medications are used improperly, they can have dangerous complications. Eric Nelson, pharmacy director at Mayo Clinic Arizona, offers these tips for medication safety.
Take medications as directed. Whether the medication is a prescription or OTC medication, take according to the directions on the label or on the consumer package. Do not take more than the label or the directions indicate. When in doubt, contact your physician or pharmacist for answers.
Store medications in a safe place. Keep your prescription medications in a secure place and keep track of the amount you have remaining—especially for controlled substances such as opioids and benzodiazepines. Do not keep old or unused medications. Dispose of unused or expired medications properly. Ask your pharmacist about methods of safe medication disposal.
Do not share prescription medications. Don’t take prescription medications that were prescribed for someone else and don’t give your unused medications to someone else. Doses are often different and you may react differently to the medication.
Watch for side effects. Whenever you begin taking a new medication, or have a dose change, monitor for possible side effects including difficulty breathing, rash, lightheadedness, etc. If you experience side effects, notify your physician or pharmacist. Follow label warnings about driving while taking certain medications.
Caution with alcohol and other drugs. Alcohol mixed with other medications is a combination with potentially serious consequences that can lead to the risk of an accidental overdose. Do not assume medications are safe with alcohol.
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