If your doctor prescribes you any type of medication, it’s important to understand its intended use as well as dosing instructions and potential side effects. Prescription drugs can range from antibiotics to fight an infection, antidepressants to improve the symptoms of a mood disorder, or hormonal medications to improve thyroid function. No matter what type of medication you’ve been prescribed, you’ll want to make sure that you’re using it safely, and that means following the essential guidelines discussed below.

Using proper medication storage

When you bring home your medication, you should figure out the best place to store it. Many people opt for the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, but the high humidity and temperature fluctuations in the bathroom can make it an unstable environment for prescription drugs. Instead, choose somewhere with a more stable temperature that’s typically above 60 degrees and below 75 degrees. Avoid direct sunlight exposure and be sure that all medications are kept out of sight and reach of children, if you have any young ones in your home.

If you tend to forget to take your medication at the same time each day, you might invest in a medication dispenser that has a timer to remind you when it’s time to take a pill. Keeping a consistent schedule of when you take your medication is important, especially for drugs with a controlled release over a set period of time, such as prescription painkillers.

Coping with medication side effects

Certain medications can have numerous side effects, particularly when you start the new prescription. Antidepressants will commonly have some normal side effects that occur upon starting the medication, including loss of appetite, fatigue, and jitteriness, but these should subside with continued use. When you start this type of medication, your doctor or pharmacist should go over what to expect as well as side effects that might raise a red flag. If you notice any abnormal or serious side effects, contact your doctor right away. Milder side effects should be monitored, and you should call your doctor if they don’t improve in a few weeks or get worse.

Ending your medication

With medicines like antibiotics, there will be a clear timeframe for when you take the medication. You’ll be given doses to take for a set number of days until you run out, at which time you won’t need to take the medication anymore. Even if symptoms subside before the medicine runs out, keep taking it for the prescribed course.

Ending longer term medications can be more complicated, especially when it comes to mood altering drugs prescribed for depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Sometimes, you may need to dose down and gradually ween off the medication. In other cases, your doctor might prescribe a different drug to ease the transition. A common mistake that people will make is simply stopping medication without consulting a doctor, because they have started to feel better. Because these drugs affect your brain chemistry, however, this can be a dangerous decision. Instead, you should talk to your doctor about the possibility of lowering your dose or ending your prescription if you feel that your depression or anxiety is under better control or more effectively managed through therapy and other non-drug treatments.

Disposing of unused medication

If you do stop taking a medication before the bottle runs out, you may wonder what you should do with the unused pills. You won’t want to keep them around the house, because they can be a poisoning hazard, especially if you have kids. It’s also a bad idea to dump them in the trash or flush them down the toilet, since medications can contaminate water supplies or pollute the environment when they are thrown out or flushed. So, what should you do? Look for a collection site at a local hospital or law enforcement agency. On April 28th, you can take advantage of easy medication disposal on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, but disposal services are also available year-round at certain facilities. By taking the time to dispose of medications properly, you’ll protect yourself, your family, and the community around you.

If you have questions about a prescription you’re taking, you can connect with a medical professional quickly and easily anytime through MeMD. You can also rely on us for behavioral health services as well as quick doctor’s visits over the web to diagnose conditions such as sinus infections, allergies, and skin rashes, which may all be treated with prescription medications.


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