National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Tips on taking medications

There are ways to make taking medication easier, and, in some situations, more effective. Here are some practical suggestions for taking your medications:

1/ When considering what medications to take, you might want to factor in what your daily schedule is like and how likely you are to actually remember to take a med in the way it is prescribed. A four-time-per-day dosing schedule may be great in theory, but if you are too busy or distracted to remember to take your meds as prescribed, you are not going to be able to evaluate accurately whether or not your meds are benefiting you.

2/ Talk with your psychiatrist about the possibility for long-acting or "sustained release" medications that stay in the blood stream longer and, therefore, need to be taken less frequently during the day.

3/ Use a "med-pack": those plastic medication holders that hold enough medication for a week and usually divide the day into four doses. They are available at most drug stores. This system has the advantage of not only needing to be filled once per week, and takes the guesswork out of whether or not you have taken a dose. It is a good idea to make sure your concentration is high when filling your weekly med-pack, since however you fill it is how you are going to be taking your medications for that week. If concentration is a problem, ask someone you trust to either assist you with this task, or check what you have done to make sure it is accurate.

Another note on med-packs: depending on the classification of medication you are taking and what state you live in or are visiting, you may need to carry your medication in the vial used to dispense it by the pharmacy, so for some people a med-pack is strictly an at-home proposition. Some states require proof that certain classifications of drugs were actually prescribed to you, so if you carry your meds around outside your home, it is safest to keep them in their original vials.

4/ For medications that need to be taken on a rigorous schedule, a wristwatch or other clock with an alarm can help you to remember to take your meds -- but only if you set it!

5/ Most literature on medication in general suggests that you not store your medication in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. The humidity from showers and the like can penetrate the vials and decrease the effectiveness of your medications in a very short period of time. For some folks, storing medications in a convenient place where they are clearly visible and easily accessible helps them to remember to take them. Never take expired or out of date medications: this can be very, very dangerous and a risk to your health.

6/ Take the time to check what is in the vials before you leave the pharmacy with new or refilled prescriptions. It is rare, but pharmacists can make errors and they will not take your medication back if you leave the store. To make sure that you have the right medications Bboth for health and economic reasons Balways check the vials before you leave the pharmacy.