Protect Yourself: Keeping Your Medication Usage Safe


Prescription medication usage is rising. Over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription in the past month climbed from 44 percent to 48 percent, says the CDC. And there was a similar climb for people using two or more and five or more. The average American fills 12 prescriptions each year, with 40 percent of adults over 60 taking five or more drugs.

I’m not anti-medicine; sometimes it’s necessary, useful and beneficial. But what’s frightening to me is how many people abuse prescription medications, take them incorrectly or don’t take them at all when they’re clearly needed. What happens next is even scarier: serious injuries or even death.

Another problem with medications is the dangers of overprescribing.

Every medication you take comes with side effects. Many times”and this increases along with the number of prescriptions you take”a person complains about a side effect (not realizing it’s just that), and gets yet another medication to treat the side effect. And so on.

That’s known as a “prescription cascade,” and it’s just that: a snowball effect. Before you know it, you have a LOT of bottles treating everything from fatigue to nausea, skin irritation and muscle aches—and it’s tough to determine if those problems are new illnesses or are caused by medications you’re taking.

So many of us have heard those stories”and they often involve older people. Many older people have all sorts of problems and health complaints that no one seems able to figure out. Then, they go into the hospital or a nursing home and bring their cache of medications with them. An astute doctor or nurse realizes that something is clearly up and starts eliminating, one by one, certain medications. Remarkably, the person’s health vastly improves, and many of his or her complaints disappear.

Please read these helpful tips from the FDA. They pertain to both prescription and over-the-counter medications.

And speaking of medicines, have you ever wondered what the right way is to dispose of them? Well, wonder no more.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these suggestions:

  • Never flush any medication down the toilet, unless package instructions specifically say to do so. Trace amounts of birth control pills and painkillers have been found flushed into rivers from sewage treatment plants.
  • Ask your local police department if it offers a drug collection program.
  • Find out if your community has a household hazardous waste collection program.
  • If you must dispose of a medication yourself, dispose of it in a sealed container with coffee grounds, kitty litter or something else that will discourage people from digging through the mixture.

Healthy Habits

Clean Your Hands

Cleaning your hands is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy. Regular hand cleaning, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.

Stay Up-to-Date with Vaccines

Disease prevention is key to staying healthy. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it. Vaccines can protect both the people who receive them and those with whom they come in contact. Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of infectious diseases and saved millions of lives.

Prevent the Spread of Food borne Infections 

Following these simple steps will help keep your family safer from food poisoning at home.

Keep Your Water Safe

Keeping your water safe and how you use your water can prevent infections from occurring.

Prevent the Spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases 

Take control and learn effective strategies to reduce STD risk. Know the facts and protect yourself and your partner.

Staying safe when sick

Use Antibiotics the Right Way

Are you aware that colds, flu, most sore throats, and bronchitis are caused by viruses? Did you know that antibiotics do not help fight viruses? It’s true. Plus, taking antibiotics when you have a virus may do more harm than good. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists antibiotic treatment.

Learn When Respiratory Illnesses Need Antibiotics

Antibiotics aren’t always the answer for common respiratory infections.  Antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses like colds, most sore throats and bronchitis, and some ear infections. Unneeded antibiotics may lead to future antibiotic-resistant infections. Symptom relief might be the best treatment option.

Feel Better with Symptom Relief

Children and adults with viral infections, which antibiotics cannot treat, usually recover when the illness has run its course. Colds, a type of viral infection, can last for up to two weeks. You should keep your healthcare provider informed if your or your child’s illness gets worse or lasts longer than expected. Over-the-counter medicines may help relieve some symptoms.

Staying safe while in a hospital

Be a Safe Patient

Hospitals remain a source of many of the most resistant organisms, but there are several ways to protect yourself or a loved one:

Types of Adverse Drug Events Related to Antibiotics

Allergic Reactions

Every year, there are more than 140,000 emergency department visits for reactions to antibiotics.  Almost four out of five (79%) emergency department visits for antibiotic-related adverse drug events are due to an allergic reaction.  These reactions can range from mild rashes and itching to serious blistering skin reactions swelling of the face and throat, and breathing problems.  Minimizing unnecessary antibiotic use is the best way to reduce the risk of adverse drug events from antibiotics.  Patients should tell their doctors about any past drug reactions or allergies.

difficile causes diarrhea linked to at least 14,000 American deaths each year.  When a person takes antibiotics, good bacteria that protect against infection are destroyed for several months.  During this time, patients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a healthcare provider’s hands.  Those most at risk are people, especially older adults, who take antibiotics and also get medical care.  Take antibiotics exactly and only as prescribed.

Drug Interactions and Side Effects

Antibiotics can interact with other drugs patients take, making those drugs or the antibiotics less effective.  Some drug combinations can worsen the side effects of the antibiotic or other drug.  Common side effects of antibiotics include nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain.  Sometimes these symptoms can lead to dehydration and other problems.  Patients should ask their doctors about drug interactions and the potential side effects of antibiotics.  The doctor should be told immediately if a patient has any side effects from antibiotics.

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