As common as medications and prescriptions are, the myths surrounding them are just as common. Whether the idea that vitamins are all natural and safe to take with prescriptions to the idea that antibiotics work on everything, many Americans have beliefs about their medications that range from silly to downright dangerous.
We put the spotlight on the top five medication myths to explore, why some of these commonly held ideas are untrue, and what the real story is so you can get the most out of your medications.
MYTH 1: You can stop taking medications once you feel better
If you get a 10-day supply of medication that you’re instructed to take twice a day, then take the medication as instructed for the full 10 days, no matter how you feel.
Many people think that just because they start to feel better, the illness or symptoms are gone. Wrong! The absence of symptoms does not mean the bacteria or virus has been completely killed off.
A 2013 survey from the National Community Pharmacists Association showed that 20 percent of patients fail to refill a new prescription, while 22 percent admitted to taking a lower dose than instructed.
That same survey showed a whopping 42 percent stopped taking their medication because they felt it wasn’t needed anymore.
Stopping prescribed medications cold turkey can have adverse effects, so always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how to stop a long-term prescription. For instance, proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec, used to reduce the production of stomach acid, need to be tapered off slowly because stopping them abruptly could cause the stomach to overproduce acid. Not taking a full dose of antibiotics could also lead to antibiotic resistance in the body.
So, keep taking that prescription as instructed, even if your symptoms are gone.
Myth 2: Natural supplements are safer than prescriptions
Natural doesn’t always mean healthy. While taking vitamins and supplements can be a healthy habit, it pays to remember the FDA standards for natural supplements are weaker than for approved drugs. Some can even interact dangerously with prescribed medications.
For instance, taking whey protein and supplements like cinnamon could make the side effects of hypoglycemic drugs much worse. Melatonin can decrease the effectiveness of the anticoagulant warfarin while St. John’s Wort can reduce the effectiveness of the birth control pill.
Yet, a 2012 survey showed that 63 percent of adults take one or more vitamins a day and believed them to be “risk-free.”
Along the same lines, many patients don’t tell their doctors what supplements they’re taking. Because of the possible interaction with prescription drugs, you should always let your doctor or pharmacist know which vitamins or natural supplements you take regularly.
Myth 3: I will feel instantly better if I take medication.
We as a society are accustomed to immediate results. We want medications to work instantly. The truth is that many medications need to build up in the body slowly before results are seen.
Psychiatric medications are a prime example of this. While antidepressants and anti-anxiety prescriptions help patients cope with intense emotions, they are not meant to be “happy” pills and may take some time to start working. Likewise, DPP-4 inhibitors, which help the body produce more insulin and reduce the amount of glucose produced for the liver, can take about a week before the effects are fully seen.
As with other medication, it’s important for you to discuss with your doctor or pharmacist how your medication is affecting you and ask what you can expect to feel and when.
Myth 4: Antibiotics cure everything
If you get a cold or an upper respiratory infection, you ask for an antibiotic, even though these illnesses are caused by a virus. The fact is that antibiotics only treat bacterial infections like strep throat, but not infections like bronchitis that are caused by a virus.
Despite that fact, many people prescribe to the “it can’t hurt to take antibiotics” school of thought. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily can lead to resistance to antibiotics, making it hard for the body to treat bacterial infections in the future.
The overuse of antibiotics and the resulting antibiotic resistance continues to be a big challenge in the healthcare world, so only take antibiotics if they are prescribed by your doctor and if you have a bacterial infection.
Despite how bad the flu and the common cold can make you feel, antibiotics simply won’t help.
Myth 5: Pills are the only way to feel better
Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. Medications come on the market every year to help with common to serious health problems, but they aren’t the only way to improve your health. If you’re prescribed medication, it’s vital that you take it as instructed, but making lifestyle choices and changes could prevent the need for medication to begin with.
Healthcare professionals recognize that having a healthy diet, exercise, enough sleep, and therapy can help reduce or eliminate the need for some long-term medications.
Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you can make that could reduce your symptoms and the need for prescription medications. Sometimes, taking a pill isn’t the only answer to feeling better.
Our Community Cares Rx partner pharmacies are a great resource if you have any questions about your medications. View our pharmacy locator to find a pharmacy near you that can help, while also giving you the opportunity to use our free pharmacy discount card to help save money on the medications you need.