There’s a prescription drug abuse problem in America. It’s important that we understand the ramifications of taking a new medication. Not only can it do your body harm but also harm the environment. Too often our society has been pushed to take medication right away before trying alternative methods. The amount of harm derived from inappropriate prescribed medication is very concerning. In 2014, 1.3 million people went into the emergency room from adverse side effects and approximately 124,000 died from this event. When introducing a new medication into our body we should do it with care.

1. Do some Research

Try researching to see if there is evidence that the particular drug is better than an alternative drug or other forms of treatment. Also, check to see what kind of information has been published about the medication in a peer-reviewed medical journal and try to determine who funded the study. It may also be useful to read about other people’s experiences with the medication online.

2. Are the Benefits Worth the Side Effects?

Comparing the NNT (Needed Number to Treat) and the likelihood of how many people get the side effects is important to help you make an informed decision. The NNT is a number that tells you how many people need to be treated to prevent one bad outcome. Example, if a drug has a NNT=6, this means that you need to treat 6 people to prevent 1 bad event.

3. Make Use of your Pharmacist.

A pharmacist can really help you understand the medication that you are taking and the potential side effects that may come with it. It is very important to know the side effects in advance so that if you experience any of them you can bring it to your doctor’s attention immediately. Below is a list of things you can talk about with your pharmacist

  • You can ask about what conditions the medication treats and what is the best way to use it.
  • You can ask them about potential side effects and protocols to follow in case you are experiencing any of the symptoms. What side effects need immediate medical attention?
  • Your pharmacist can give you important information of drug interactions. They can tell you what is safe to use with the medication whether it be food or over the counter drugs.
  • Ask about what you should do if you miss a dose?
  • How long does the medication need to used?
  • Is this drug addictive?
  • Ask for details about how you will know if a medication is working for you and how long you can expect to wait for it to become noticeable. You can also ask what you should do if the medication isn’t working.
  • Ask about any restrictions to activities while on the medication.

4. Know the Risks

You should be aware if the drug is potentially addictive. Sometimes it’s difficult to wean off a medication and it may require medical supervision. It is a good idea to also know how long your physician may expect you to be on the medication.

5. Discuss the Alternatives

If you are worried about the medication and are unsure if you want to start it, don’t give up.  Discuss it with your physician and look into finding a complementary and alternative medicine option.

6. Get a Second Opinion

It may be worth it to get a second opinion. Not every doctor is always going to have the same opinion for the diagnoses, recommendations or treatment plan. It is good to be cautious if you are diagnosed with something serious, complex or a rare condition.