Misusing medicine can be dangerous

By Roz Kohls, Staff Writer

Accidentally taking the wrong amount of medicine or taking it at the wrong time can be dangerous.

According to the Federal Drug Administration, 40 to 75 percent of older adults make mistakes in how they take medicine. The average senior takes two to seven daily medications.

The more medications taken daily, the easier it is to lose track of how many to take and when they should be taken.

Dr. Tom Styrvoky of the Allina Clinic in Cokato said the most common misuse of drugs he has seen in his practice is confusing drugs with drugs that have similar names, not knowing how often the medicine should be taken each day, grabbing the wrong bottle in the medicine cabinet because it looks the same as the correct bottle, and not being able to remember if the medicine was taken. A check list or container system helps keep track when medicine is taken, said Styrvoky.

Many senior adults see more than one doctor or specialist. This is why it is highly important to share records and communicate about medications and treatments to avoid overmedicating, adverse drug reactions, or side effects.

Drug misuse is one of the top problems doctors see in senior adults. Almost 40 percent of all drug reactions each year involve people over 60.

Here are 10 tips to avoid dangerous misuse of medications:

1.) Make sure all of your doctors and any specialist communicate with each other on all medications and conditions.

2.) Make sure you understand how and when to take all medicines.

• Have the doctor write instructions down.

• Find out if they need to be taken with food, water or milk.

• Ask about food or drug interactions that may interfere with the medicine.

• Read all instructions and possible side effects and reactions.

• Know how long you need to take the medicine.

3.) Select over-the-counter products to treat only the symptoms you have. Ask the pharmacist to make sure it won’t react with any of your current medications.

4.) Make sure all medications are clearly labeled. If you have trouble reading a prescription label, ask for a larger-print type or use a magnifying glass.

5.) Never take medication in the dark.

6.) Know what your medicine looks like for color, shape, and kind. If it doesn’t look the same, contact your pharmacy.

7.) Only take the amount prescribed for you. Doubling up on medication will not make you better twice as fast. Never take someone else’s medication.

8.) Never stop taking a medicine because you feel better.

9.) Develop a system for taking medicine.

• Use a container system, in which the container is marked with the days of the week or month on individual pill compartments.

• Use a timer if you are having problems taking medicine at a certain time.

• Get prescriptions refilled before you need them to avoid running out.

10.) Before traveling, discuss your medications and any time changes with your doctor. Carry all medicines with you instead of packing them in a suitcase.

Most important, communicate with your doctor about all your medicine, whether prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, supplements, cream, salve, holistic preparation or herbal remedies.

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