Taking medicine is often integral to life, but the cardinal rule is to stay safe whenputting something in the body. People in their forties and fifties often notice the number of bottles in the medicine cabinet increasing. There are individual reasons for this, some people finding it harder to metabolize food, ward off exposure to environmental chemicals, or deal with life’s stresses. Genetics definitely plays a part , some aging bodies handling these assaults better than others. But everyone relies on a liver to metabolize medications and kidneys to clear toxins. A history of alcohol and drug use, smoking, years of painkiller ingestion can have a negative effect on these organs. Then a new drug is introduced and side effects occur.
These can be gastrointestinal, muscular, or neurological—dizziness, blurred vision,drowsiness. The most extreme event is a cascade of symptoms leading to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic response to a drug, substance or insect bite. Awareness of the signs and symptoms saves lives: skin flushing/hives progressing to increased pulse, increasing anxiety and the swelling of the tongue and throat making breathing difficult. It’s an emergency! Call 911. Clearly, the purpose of taking medication for different diseases or conditions is to insure that we feel better. Though it’s the medical profession’s job to prevent the opposite from occurring, there are things you can do to avoid side effects and drug interactions.
- Use the same pharmacy to fill your prescriptions
That’s the first line of defense, says Mary Ann Schupp, RPH. The reason is pharmacists and doctors utilize a computer program that contains a profile of all your medications. When filling a new one, the program will automatically flag the drug if potential problems exist with a medication you are already taking. An example would be beginning a muscle relaxant that can cause drowsiness when you are already taking a sleeping aid. Using different pharmacies negates the safeguard.
- Talk to your pharmacist about a new medication.
To insure greater protection for their clients, Schupp and pharmacists like her don’t just rely on the computer program. They also walk to the window and talk to their clients, explaining how and when to take a new drug and the possible side effects it can cause. They want clients to share questions and concerns before starting a new medication
- Know if medication counseling is the law in your state.
A conversation with your pharmacist or pharmacy intern is called medication counseling. It’s required by law in most states and is your second line of defense, says Schupp. She emphasizes that clients can confuse a new drug with one they are already taking
and that medication counseling helps the client to focus in on the new drug and understand what it’s for and how it works.