7 Myths About Medication

Misconceptions about medicine are as common as pills on a pharmacy shelf.

We could all use a healthy dose of the truth.

Pharmacist Marcia Wyman, PharmD, BCPS, debunks seven common myths about medications:

1. If you’re really hurting, you can ignore the label and take more pills.

Fact: When you’re in severe pain, you may look at the dose on the pain reliever label and think, “an extra dose can’t possibly hurt me.” But the truth is, yes, it can. The recommended dose of an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drug isn’t just a suggestion — it’s a careful calculation. Pharmaceutical companies work hard to develop the appropriate dose of each and every medicine.

Taking more than the listed dose can rob you of the medicine’s benefits and increase the risk of serious side effects — leaving you feeling worse. Also pay attention to how pills should be taken. Pills meant to be swallowed should not be chewed. If you have trouble swallowing pills, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about alternatives.

2. Once you feel better, you don’t have to keep taking medication.

Fact: If your symptoms are gone but you have a week left on your medication, you may be tempted to stop taking the pesky pills. However, if you stop taking your medication early, it can increase your chance of relapsing into illness.

If you’ve considered stopping your medication because it costs too much, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about ways to reduce the cost. Your doctor prescribed that medicine because you need it. There are many ways to make medications more affordable.

3. Natural supplements are always a safer choice.

Fact: Natural supplements may seem safer and healthier than medications. But since the standards for supplements are not as strict, the amount of each ingredient may vary between products. Potential side effects may not be mentioned on the label.

Furthermore, some supplements may increase the risk of side effects with certain medications. If you’re interested in natural supplements, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which ones are safe to use.


4. Antibiotics are the answer for every illness.

Fact: Antibiotics are only helpful in illnesses caused by bacteria, such as Strep throat. Most illnesses, like colds and sore throats, are caused by viruses that don’t respond at all to antibiotics. Even though you’re feeling miserable, OTC medications will usually relieve your symptoms until the virus is gone. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about which ones are safe to take — if you have hypertension, for example, Sudafed® (pseudoephedrine) can elevate your blood pressure.

If you’re not feeling a lot better in 10 to 14 days, call your doctor. You may have developed a secondary bacterial infection — and that’s when antibiotics will help you. Doctors don’t want to prescribe antibiotics when they aren’t needed because overusing them may lead to resistant, hard-to-treat infections.

5. Your doctor doesn’t need to know which vitamins you take.

Fact: When prescribing a new medication or suggesting an OTC remedy, your doctor needs to know about all the OTC and prescription medications, vitamins and supplements you are taking. This helps your doctor ensure that any new medication will not interact with your current regimen in a dangerous way. Some medications, vitamins or supplements can hinder the way your body absorbs, breaks down and eliminates medicine.

6. It’s best to keep medication handy, by the bathroom or kitchen sink.

Fact: Putting medications where you’ll see them every day may seem like a good way to remember to take them. However, storing medications and supplements by a bathroom or kitchen sink exposes them to damage from dampness and light. Unless you’re told otherwise, store medications in a dry area, away from heat and direct light. Store them in the original container or in a pill box that can’t be opened by little hands. And always keep medications and supplements where children and pets can’t reach them.

7. It doesn’t matter how you swallow a pill as long as it gets where it needs to go.

Fact: Pills should always be taken with water. Taking pills with alcohol is especially harmful, as alcohol can seriously interfere with the way your body absorbs medication. Rather than taking a sip and then throwing back the pill, swallow enough water to keep the pill from dissolving before it reaches your stomach. This will avoid irritating your throat. And always check whether to take medication on a full versus an empty stomach.

Following these guidelines and reading medication labels carefully will ensure that your medicine can do its job — and keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe.

5. Go to a local dental school. Dental students spend their last years in school conducting hands-on practice, supervised by experienced instructors. Their services are often steeply discounted compared to dental clinics. Check the website of the Commission on Dental Accreditation for dental schools in your area.

6. Find low-cost and sliding fee clinics through your state dental association. State dental associations are a great source of information, and usually list community dental clinics and sliding fee clinics on their websites. These providers base prices on your ability to pay and are a great option for low-income and unemployed people.

7. Participate in clinical trials. Universities and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research are just a few places that occasionally need volunteers for their research. Study participants often get free or low-cost dental treatment in exchange for their participation.

8. Enlist the help of a charity. Several charities focus specifically on helping low-income and other special populations get the dental care they need. The Dental Lifeline Network and the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry’s Charitable Foundation are just a couple. You can also contact your local United Way for resources within your community.

Though you may be tempted to skip the dentist when you have a minor toothache, you can get less expensive dental care and make the more expensive procedures manageable. Dental care doesn’t come cheaply, but you really can’t afford to go without.

Learn more about MediBid and how employers use our service to improve healthcare and lower cost for employees.

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Photo Credit: © Pamela Moore/iStock/Getty Images

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