Medications – what you don’t know can kill you
I sit here, in the midst of the Presidential Debate, wondering what I can write for this month’s column. As they began debating over healthcare, and individuals’ ability to afford such things as medication, I was reminded of a presentation I recently conducted on a similar note. I think you’ll find it interesting, if not a bit unsettling.
There’s a growing concern among seniors, and everyone else for that matter, about the impact that medications can have on you…good and bad.
The truth is, what you don’t know can be potentially deadly.
In a study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, results showed that almost one-fourth of Americans stated that they or a family member have actually experienced a medical error of some kind.
This is a rather frightening statistic, and one that should make us all vow to be more attentive and vigilant about our health care.
The most common venues for medication errors to occur are:
• in hospitals (wrong, dose, wrong medication, wrong patient);
• in doctor’s offices (wrong prescription, sloppy handwriting);
• in the home (all sorts of mistakes).
Many factors can contribute to individuals experiencing medication errors in the home:
• Overdose – taking too much medication or too many pills.
• Under-dose – not taking enough of medication.
• Wrong medication, perhaps from trouble reading or understanding labels.
• Wrong time – not understanding the dosage instructions, such as twice a day, three times a day, etc.
• Skipping doses and what to do if a dose is missed.
• Mixing medications. One good example is pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs or pain meds and Tylenol PM/Tylenol Arthritis Formula.
• Mixing prescriptions Rx medications with “naturals.”
• Taking someone else’s medication or giving yours to someone. This should never be done. What’s right for one may not be right for another.
• Lack of understanding or knowledge of the medications, side effects and potential harmful interactions.
Nearly 100,000 people die each year from errors in medications (from all venues); of these roughly 7,000 people die from errors that occur in their homes.
Perhaps the most frightening statistic is that the use of prescription medication is the third leading cause of death in this country
Of all the medications people ingest on a regular basis, some of the medications most responsible for these errors include narcotic analgesics (pain killers), typically from an overdose and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, cardiac problems, ulcers and sensitivities and allergic reactions.
The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study and their results indicated that among senior citizens with three or more chronic health issues, almost 75 percent of them take five or more medications. Combine that with multiple doses of each drug in one day, a person could take as many as 20-plus pills daily, and in different combinations.
Another thing that many of us tend to overlook is knowing how to properly dispose of medications that are outdated, expired or no longer being taken. Simply flushing them down the toilet is no longer an acceptable means of disposal.
Your medication cupboard should only have medications that you currently take, with the exceptions of over-the-counter medications or those taken when needed.
Many “Boomers” don’t like the “conventional” when it comes to drugs, surgery, therapy etc. More are researching and turning to alternative means of improving their health, such as the use of “natural” or “herbal” supplements for treating different conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
Though these “natural” products can provide a multitude of benefits, caution must be exercised with combining them with prescription medications.
These supplements are not FDA approved, therefore their quality and consistency of strength cannot be guaranteed. Remember “natural” doesn’t always mean “safe.” Consult your physician before taking medications and let him or her know you are taking natural or herbal supplements.
Remember, no matter how you look at it, medications are potentially deadly chemicals. It’s important to be as proactive and informed about your health as possible.
Chisholm’s expertise in nursing, orthopedics and surgery spans more than 30 years. For more information on orthopedic-related topics, visit www.bone-and-joint-pain.com. Submit questions or comments to Ken at