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Staying safe with medications

Medications are prescribed to help treat, control, and prevent certain health conditions. But medications can be ineffective and dangerous if not taken correctly. Even if you’ve been taking a medication for a while, your age and changes in your condition can lead to safety concerns. Here are some tips to help you make sure you are staying safe and getting the most from your medications.

Create a medication list

woman taking medication

Knowing how your medication works and how to take it is important. Create a list of all medications, over-the-counter (OTC) products, vitamins and supplements you are taking. This can help you get a complete picture of what you are taking that you can share with your doctor. You can also use it to record important details about your medications.

Here are a few things you should include about your medications on your list to make sure you’re avoiding any risks:

  • Medication name
  • Strength and type (for example, immediate-release or extended-release)
  • What the medication treats
  • How you should take it (dose, how many time(s) per day, time of day, etc.)
  • Name and contact details of the prescribing provider

You can use an online template to help create a medication list, or you can simply use a pen and paper. If you’re looking for an online template, you can download this My Medicine Record template from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or this My Medicines List template from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Having this information all in once place helps you, your family and your doctor keep a better eye on your health. If you need help getting information about your medications, contact your pharmacist or the provider who prescribed the medication.

Take medications safely

Medications are most effective when you take them as directed by your doctor or the instructions. When not taken as directed, medications can be ineffective or potentially harmful.

Here are some things that you can do to make sure you are taking medications safely:

  • Keep a list and share it with your healthcare team
  • Update your medication list any time you start or stop taking a medication
  • Don’t start taking new medications, supplements, vitamins or OTC products without checking with your pharmacist or healthcare provider first to make sure there are no potentially dangerous interactions
  • Only take medications prescribed for you and do not share medications with others
  • Do not use expired or damaged medications
  • Do not stop or change doses of medications without your healthcare provider’s approval
  • Keep medications secure and out of the reach of children
  • Dispose of medications safely

Dispose of medications safely

Proper disposal of unused or expired medications is especially important. According to data from America’s Poison Centers, which represents the 55 poison control centers in the United States, 40% of poisoning cases in the U.S. were for children age 5 and younger. In Idaho, 48% of poisoning cases were for children age 5 and younger. So make sure that you are keeping your medications out of reach and secured.

Additionally, with the ongoing opioid crisis, safely disposing of unneeded opioid medication can help prevent someone from getting access to it and misusing it.

The best way to safely dispose of unneeded drugs is to take them to a drug-collection site. The U.S. Department of Justice has a search tool that can help you find a drug-collection site near you. If you don’t have a collection site near you, or cannot get to one quickly, follow the FDA’s guidance on its flush list.

Know your medications

When you are prescribed a new medication, ask your doctor and your pharmacist questions about it. Ask why you should be taking it and what it is supposed to treat. Additionally, make sure that you know any side effects.

Here are some things to talk with your doctor or pharmacist about when starting a new medication:

  • What are the possible side effects?
  • Are there potential interactions to be aware of (e.g., alcohol, specific foods or supplements)?
  • How should you store the medication (e.g., at room temperature, in the refrigerator or some other way)?

Using medications safely and correctly can help you achieve your health goals. Learning more about your medications can help you better understand your conditions and keep your healthcare team informed about your health. 

Find a provider

Having a provider who you can go to regularly is an important part of making sure you’re healthy. Blue Cross of Idaho members can find an in-network provider by logging in to their member account and selecting Find Care. You can search for providers by location, specialty and more.

Written by: Blue Cross of Idaho

Posted: June 4, 2024