Making medications work for you

Picture of woman with pillbox for article about taking medication as prescribed

For most people with long-term conditions, taking medications is part of self-managing. Their proper use is a huge factor in your health and your life. It is not always easy. Some medicines have side effects. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember to take them. So, how can you make your medicine work for you

  • Learn about them. It may be as simple as knowing the name and strength and what it does. Read drug company information sheets, or ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider. You’ll want to know what the drug is supposed to do, what side effects it may have, and what other drugs or foods with which it might interact. You also should know how long it will take to start working.
  • Take them properly. All drugs have one thing in common — they won’t work if you don’t take them. If a drug is taken with meals, it’s usually easier to remember. If it can’t be taken with food, you might want some other reminder. One strategy is to link the timing of taking your medication to something you do every day, like brushing your teeth or walking the dog. Another is to ask a family member or friend to remind you, or use a watch or phone with an alarm setting.
  • Pay attention to how they affect you. Ask your healthcare team what to expect, and then try to observe what happens. Do you notice a change in your condition? With some conditions, you may not feel any different even though the drug may be working. What else do you notice? Are there side effects? Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about any concerns you have about your treatment, including side effects you experience.
  • Keep a log and share it with your healthcare providers. Whatever happens, write it down and tell your provider. It’s especially dangerous to stop a drug without talking to your provider first. Your healthcare provider will think you’re still on it, which might affect their decisions about what to do next. For the same reason, always tell all your healthcare providers what medicines, herbs, and supplements you are taking. Bring a written list of all of these or the actual containers to your visits. Your care providers won’t have all the information they need if you don’t share information with them.

Keep track of all your medications using Managing My Medications. It’s useful when you go to the doctor or the pharmacy, when traveling, or in an emergency. Also, you can use it at home to remind yourself to take your medicines.

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