Medication: Safe Usage

Simply stated, it’s important to safely use medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, in order to avoid illness, injury, and/or death and protect your health and life.


Here are some tips to help ensure safe usage of medication:

  • Make sure you have the correct medication:
    • Check the label for correct drug name, dosage level, and usage instructions.
    • On your prescription, have your doctor write what your medication is used for in addition to the drug name and dosage.
  • Know your drugs’ side effects.
    • If possible, avoid taking multiple drugs that can amplify each other’s potential side effects.
    • Ask your doctor about any drug’s potential side effects.
    • Ask the pharmacy for a print-out about any drug’s potential side effects.
    • For over-the-counter (OTC) medications, read the packaging.
  • Know your drug’s properties.
    • For example, if you have separate drugs prescribed for help with pain, sleep, and anxiety, but they’re all sedatives, the combination could be unsafe.
    • Read the risks/warnings on the package for words like dizzy, drowsy, sedation, sleepy, etc.
    • For over-the-counter (OTC) medications, read the packaging.
  • Know whether your medication is safe to mix with alcohol.
    • Avoiding alcohol is recommended for many medications.
    • This can cause dangerous interactions that can lead to unsafe rises in blood pressure, alcohol poisoning, and/or coma.
    • Ask your doctor and/or pharmacist if a prescription is safe to combine with alcohol.
    • For over-the-counter (OTC) medications, read the packaging.
  • Know how your medication combines with food and/or non-alcoholic beverages.
    • Ask a doctor and/or pharmacist whether or not the medication should be taken with food and if there are any specific dietary restrictions of which you need to be aware.
  • Make sure your medication has not expired.
    • Check the date. Expired medications may not work effectively.
    • Properly dispose of expired medications. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications safely.
  • Understand your medications’ directions.
    • If you do not understand the instructions, consult your doctor and/or pharmacist.
  • Keep track of your medications.
    • Keep a list of all medicines, minerals, vitamins, and herbs, and share this with your doctor for his or her review.
  • Know your medications’ required climate.
    • Read the label to find out where you should store your medications. For example, if your medication label states that it should be kept in a cool, dry place, storing it in a hot, moist environment could damage the medication, leading it to be less effective.
  • When in doubt, consult a doctor and/or pharmacist.


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