Tips for Managing Your Meds

By Barby Ingle, Columnist

When it comes to managing medication, the more you know about your medical condition the better equipped you’ll be to understand which drugs to take, the side effects to watch for, and when to take them. It is also a great idea for your caregiver to know.

There are many times when I am not doing well and my husband will say, “You seem dizzy. Have you taken XXX yet? When was the last time you took it?”

Or he’ll say, “We are going to go out later to get groceries, so take your pill now so you won’t be sleepy when we go and you will be more comfortable.”

Having someone there to help me is great, because sometimes I feel so awful that I cannot remember to take my medication or even what I have taken. I have overdosed on different medications a few times because I forgot I had already taken a dose.

Here are some tips I’ve learned to manage my medications safely:

1)  Use a pill organizer to keep track of your medications. I have a pill box for a two week supply separated into morning and night pills.

2)  Keep medications without childproof caps away from children or lock them up, especially if you have opioid pain medications.

3)  Take your pills at the same time each day, especially when medications are time-released versions. This helps to keep the level of medication consistent in your body.

4)  Know why you are taking each medication, how best to take them (before or after eating), and any side effects that you may experience. Find out what your doctor wants you to do for each medication and verify it with your pharmacist.

5)  Be sure to never break or split time-release pills. Breaking the seal can be very dangerous as your body can receive the dose of the whole pill too quickly and it can become deadly.

6)  Carry a list of your medications and doses at all times in your purse or wallet. You should also update your pharmacy records to include all of the drugs that you take, including any over-the-counter medications. I use Walgreen's and they have a great online site that allows me to update it from home.

7)  Do not drive under the influence of medication that affects your cognitive thinking. It is also a good idea not to drive while taking medications that cause drowsiness or when you are distracted by pain.

8)  If a medication is making you sick or causing side effects that you cannot tolerate, talk to your physician about adjusting the dose or changing the medication. If side effects include trouble breathing, a rash or more severe symptoms, head to a local emergency room for immediate assistance.

9)  Read prescription labels and inserts carefully. They contain important information such as the medication’s name, dosage, prescribing doctor, and expiration dates. This can help you avoid taking a medication for too long or having adverse effects from long-term use.

10)  If you are a drinker, be sure to discuss with your provider or pharmacist if it is safe to drink with any of the prescriptions or over-the-counter medications you are taking.

11)  If you have more than one doctor prescribing medications, be sure to tell all of them what you are taking, so they can be alert to possible interactions and complications. I had to do this for myself and have not had these issues since.

12)  If you decide you no longer want to continue a medication, get your provider’s guidance before you stop taking it. Some medications can be stopped immediately, but many require you to titrate or taper off them.

13)  If you discontinue a medication, be sure to dispose of it properly and immediately. You should also dispose of medication once the expiration date has passed. The FDA has a list of disposal recommendations you can see by clicking here.

Some medications such as inhalants have hazardous material disposal requirements. Follow the specific disposal instructions on the drug label. If no instructions are given, you can crush and mix medications with coffee grounds, cat litter, or food scraps. Then seal them in a bag or a container (such as a margarine tub or jar) and discard them in the regular trash.

Many pharmacies and law enforcement agencies have “Drug Take Back” events that you can participate in. Find out more from your local pharmacist or police station.

Following these tips will keep you, your loved ones and your community safer.

Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.

More information about Barby can be found at her website.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.