What To Know Before Starting Your Medication

Apr 1 07:32 2009 Sudesh Samuel Print This Article

Starting on a medication can be an important step towards the cure or better control of a medical condition.  Starting on the right foot is often invaluable to developing greater confidence and assurance in taking your medications consistently and appropriately for maximum benefit.

There are several important things you need to know before you begin using any form of medication.

First you should be aware of identification characteristics; what the medicine is,Guest Posting how it looks like, what it’s commonly called, what important ingredients it contains, and what it is meant to do for you.

  • What the medicine is, can be very important to administering and using it appropriately. Individuals have been found to consume by mouth medication actually meant for use in other body cavities.
  • Knowing how a medicine looks can facilitate consistent and safe consumption and help you to notice differences upon expiry or mistakes in refills later on.
  • What the medicine is commonly called is important especially if you interact with different healthcare providers and caregivers who may call the drug product by different names. In general there are two names that are useful to be familiar with; one is the generic name and the other is the common brand name given to the medicinal product as found in your locality. An example is the cholesterol drug commonly known as Lipitor but generically known as atorvastatin.
  • The main ingredients found in any medicinal product are also important to better understand the medication’s effects, avert potential allergic reactions as well as navigate any religious or dietary concerns.
  • Knowing what the medicine is meant to do can be very motivating in taking it consistently and this also allows you to observe for it’s effectiveness.

A second band comprising of administration characteristics is also important to know. You or your caregiver should be aware of how to administer the medicine, how often to administer it, when to administer it, whether it should be co-administered with something else, how much of it to administer at any one time, and for how long it is to be administered.

  • An enema for instance, requires rectal administration and via specific steps to ensure that an entire dose reaches it’s intended site of action.
  • An oral antibiotic like cloxacillin can require administration up to four times a day to effectively fight an infection.
  • Once-a-day blood pressure medication may be useful to be taken in the morning to coincide with the common rhythmic blood pressure spike that occurs upon rising. Alternatively chronologically structured once-a-day blood pressure medication may be taken just before sleeping.
  • To avoid long-term stomach irritation and ulcers, a painkiller like aspirin may be better taken consistently mixed with food or concurrently with an antacid.
  • Fever, gout and migraine medicines may be required to be taken in different quantities at different times depending on the severity of an acute attack.
  • Many over-the-counter medications and even prescription medications may only be required intermittently or seasonally although there are those that may require long-term and consistent regimes especially to treat chronic conditions.

A third band of medication characteristics to know is the precautionary. This includes what common or serious side effects can occur, what you should not be doing or taking while on the medication, whether any unfavorable interactions can occur or be anticipated, and whether or what allergies or adverse reactions have been known to occur under similar circumstances.

  • Side effects can occur in variable fashion depending on the medication itself and individual predisposition. Realistically, you may not be expected to be completely aware of all the possible side effects that could occur when starting on medication. The more important ones to note are the most common ones as these are most likely to occur, and the most serious ones as these have the most harmful potential.
  • You should ask questions and clarify aspects of diet, lifestyle and other medications or supplements that may interact unfavorably with your new medication.
  • Taking a new medication that breaks down in the liver, while on grapefruit juice can, for instance, lead to toxicity.
  • A previous allergic reaction to a penicillin antibiotic has a 10% chance of recurring if starting on a new cephalosporin antibiotic to treat an infection.

Knowing a fourth band of contingency characteristics can be vital to your well being. This includes what to do if doses are missed or excess of the new medication is consumed, how to observe for side effects or allergic reactions, what to do, who to contact and how to get help should an adverse reaction to a new medication occur.

  • Most medication doses are not meant to be made up for or double-dosed if a single dose is missed. An exception is the bone protecting medication known as Fosamax (alendronate) that may be indicated for consumption once a week on the same day. With a missed dose, the medication may be taken on another day of the same week and continued every week hence on the same new day instead of being totally skipped for the initial week of the missed dose. Should an excess of a new medication be consumed, it is useful to know what to do to avoid harmful effects. Some medicines may not be harmful in mild excess while others may require urgent removal from the body.
  • Understanding the nature of potential adverse effects can be invaluable in detecting and treating them early. Certain painkillers may be more likely to cause unusual swelling around the eyes while a medication like warfarin could cause excessive bleeding and bluish-black skin that reflects internal bleeds.
  • Some adverse occurrences may only require monitoring, others may require discontinuation of the medication while the most serious ones, although highly unlikely, can require emergency treatment.
  • It is very useful to have the contact details of, and ready access to, a network of caregivers, healthcare providers and a nearby hospital in case of any emergency.

Once you have these four bands of information and knowledge in place, it’s time to do the deed. Always remember to use good light when you first take your dose of medication and even thereafter. Taking medicine in the dark increases the risk of taking the wrong medication or the wrong dose. Your medications should be stored appropriately after that first dose and if you have any doubts before starting, clarify them with a pharmacist.

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About Article Author

Sudesh Samuel
Sudesh Samuel

Sudesh Samuel is a pharmacist and medical communications specialist with a keen interest in medication management services that make treatments safer, more effective and less costly. He is president of the Institute for Medication Management - http://www.medicationreview.net

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