Before beginning any course of treatment, always make sure you know the details of the drugs you are taking: what they will and won't do, any possible side-effects, and when you should take them.
Some of the main questions to ask are listed below. You will probably have your own questions to add to this list!
- Do I need to take it at a specific time each day? What happens if I don't?
- In many cases, the effects of your medication are determined by the time of day when you take them. For example, some may cause drowsiness and be best taken at night so they don't make you sleepy during the day.
- Will it drug alter my motor vehicle skills or behavior?
- Many prescriptions come with warnings about not using heavy machinery or driving a motor vehicle while taking the drugs. Doctors may also alert patients that the drug may cause them to be grumpy or to have other mood changes. Take these warnings seriously and let those around you know of the potential changes.
- What side-effects should I watch for? What if the side-effects get worse?
- Medications often cause mild side-effects, such as nausea or sleepiness. Your doctor and pharmacist should tell you what those side effects are. If they don't, you need to ask so you'll know what to expect. You should also find out about potential serious side-effects, such as an increase in heart attack risk or the possibility of liver damage. Always tell your doctor about any side-effects you experience, no matter how minor: it may be a sign that the drug is working, or even that something else would be better for you.
- Does it interact with any other medications/supplements I am taking?
- Problems with drug interaction should be taken very seriously because it can cause serious health problems and even death. Make sure you tell your doctor and pharmacist the names of all the medications amd supplements you are taking, whether they are prescription or over-the-counter. You should also ask about potential drug interaction difficulties between your new medication and any vitamins or herbal supplements that you take regularly.
- Will there be withdrawal or rebound effects from my previous medication?
- Generally, if you are trying a new medication, you will stop taking the previous medication. In some cases, switching can be quite difficult: some prescription medications can be addictive and quitting "cold turkey" can result in serious withdrawal effects, including rebound symptoms (meaning the treated condition comes back with greater intensity). Your doctor should advise you about the potential for withdrawal and/or rebound effects.
- Is a small overdose dangerous?
- Sometimes people take their medications incorrectly by accident. They may take the pills too close together or take too many pills at one time. With most medications, these small overdoses don't pose a threat to your system. Other drugs are more powerful and can cause serious harm to your body if you take more than prescribed. While it's never a good idea to deliberately overdo medication, you need to know what might happen if it accidentally occurs.
- Is there a major FDA warning about my new medication?
- When you take any type of prescription medication, it's a good idea to pay attention to the news. A few drugs that are being sold can cause significant problems for some patients, although the majority of the users will benefit. If the FDA puts out a warning about your medication, you want to know about it so you can speak to your doctor about the potential dangers.