Tips for Safe Medication Use

How to boost the benefits of your prescriptions.

Tips for Safe Medication UsePhoto: iStock

The top tip for safe medication use? Follow the instructions. It sounds obvious, but the reality is that 50% of Canadians don’t take their medications as prescribed. In fact, taking medication improperly causes 10% of all hospital admissions, and in the case of seniors, it’s 25%, according to the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists 
Taking drugs as prescribed helps you get optimal benefits and reduces the risk of side effects. 
For each prescription, make sure you understand: 
What the medication is for
What dosage to take and how many doses per day
What time(s) to take your medication
How to take the medication
What drug or food interactions to avoid
How to store the medication safely
What to do if you miss a dose
What to do if you experience side effects
Depending on the medication, your doctor or pharmacist might give you special instructions to keep in mind (and look for warning stickers on your pill bottles or packages). For example:
Take it with food 
Take it on an empty stomach
Drink plenty of water
Avoid grapefruit or dairy products
Avoid certain activities, such as driving or operating heavy machinery, due to drowsiness 

It’s essential to tell your doctor and pharmacist if you’re taking any supplements, over-the-counter drugs or herbal remedies, as they may affect how your prescribed medications work. 

If you have questions about your treatment plan, ask your pharmacist if you would benefit from a medication review. At this one-on-one consultation (he or she will help you understand the different medications and identify any potential issues, such as drug interactions. At the end of the review, you’ll receive a complete list of your medications. 
You may qualify to have your medication review funded by the provincial government – ask your pharmacist.