Are You Taking Too Much Medication?

Does it seem like everyone you know is taking medication for something?  Since 1 in 5 Americans age 45 and older have some type of chronic medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes, chances are you have friends who are on long term medication.  Perhaps you are also taking a daily medication for a chronic medical condition.

Unfortunately, this trend gets worse as we get older.  76% of people over age 60 in the United States take at least 2 medications daily.  37% take 5 or more medications daily.  It’s easy to slip into this when we are often seen to specialist for specific health problems.  Before we know it, we may be seeing several specialists in addition to our primary care physician.  How do we know when we are taking too many medications?

All medications have side effects.  Sometimes a medication that is given to help a specific medical problem can make us have side effects that we don’t recognize as being caused by the medication.  The more medications you take, the more likely you are to have side effects, especially if there are interactions between the medications you take.

One way to address this is to do a “Medication Checkup” with your primary care physician.  Make an appointment for this and bring ALL the medications you take including those which are only as needed and any over the counter medications, vitamins or supplements.  You may find you are taking a medication you no longer need, or that switching to a different medication for a chronic medical condition can reduce or eliminate any side effects.

Another way to help prevent side effects caused by medication interaction is to make sure you use only one pharmacy.  Your pharmacist should have a complete list of all medications as well as over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements.  Ask your pharmacist before starting a new over the counter medication to make sure it doesn’t interact with the prescription medications you are currently taking.

Keep an up to date list of all prescriptions, over the counter medications, vitamins and supplements and make sure you update the list with any change.  Double check with your primary care provider at each visit to make sure their list is up to date as well.

When bothered by a new problem like insomnia, consider a non-drug approach to manage the problem. Getting some exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime, sticking to a schedule for going to bed each night, limiting caffeine in the evening and limiting electronic screens just before bed can be a non-medication way to help improve sleep.

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