Many of us don't use our medication properly. This can lead to serious consequences. Here's what could happen to you if you don't take your medication as directed by your doctor:
- You could end up in the emergency room or the hospital. Around 30% of emergency room visits related to medication use are due to improper use of medications, and some of these visits lead to hospitalization.
- Your symptoms could get worse. If you're taking a medication to control your symptoms, your symptoms may worsen if you're not using it properly. For example, antibiotics need to be finished even if you are feeling better. If you stop treatment early, the infection may come back and you could be left feeling worse than before. Similarly, if you are combining certain medications, interactions between them can cause unwanted side effects, or the effectiveness of one medication may be altered. For example, certain antibiotics should not be combined with multivitamins or antacids.
- You could suffer long-term complications if your condition is not properly treated. People with long-term health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol can end up with complications such as heart attacks or strokes if their condition is not kept under control with medication.
- Your medication could stop working. Some medications, such as oral contraceptives and HIV medications, need to be taken on a strict schedule. If you miss doses or take them late, your medication could become less effective or even stop working for you altogether. In the case of HIV medications, you may then need to be switched to another medication. This cuts into the number of options that you have left to treat your condition. Studies show that you need to take at least 95% of your doses properly in order to keep your HIV medications working.
- You could experience more side effects. If you are not taking the medication properly, or taking too much, you are at a higher risk of side effects.
- You could become dependent on your medication. Some medications, such as sedatives, can cause dependence if they are not used properly.
- You could go into withdrawal. For some medications, such as hormone therapy, medications for mental health disorders, or thyroid medications, it may not be safe to suddenly stop taking them. Instead, your doctor or pharmacist can suggest ways to gradually reduce your dose so that you can avoid withdrawal symptoms.
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