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Drugs? Medicine? What's the Difference?

Posted September 1, 2015  

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Today’s modern medicine has made our lives better and allowed us to live longer and healthier lives. But, if you are over 65, you need to be careful about your medicine, especially if you are taking many different drugs.

Some people refer to the pills, liquid, cream etc . as medicine, other’s refer to them as drugs.  The truth is, both of them can mean the exact same thing.  Neither is wrong.

They both can mean:

  • The bottle you get from the drug store that the doctor prescribed, or over the counter meds (OTC)
  • It may come in the form of a cream, spray, pill, capsule, liquid or lotion
  • Used to treat colds, aches, pain, heartburn, or in the form of health supplements
  • Vitamins and/or dietary supplements you take daily or sporadically to boost your health

Whichever term you use, the important thing is that you are taking any of the “drugs” or “medicine” safely.

  • Tell your doctor/nurse about all of the medicines you take (prescribed or otc), especially if they are prescribing a new medicine to treat new symptoms you are experiencing from sickness or chronic health problems
  • Remind your doctor/nurse about any allergies or problems you have had in the past with any medicines (rashes, breathing problems, dizziness, mood changes, stomach upset)

Helpful questions to ask your doctor when a new medicine is suggested:

  • The name of the Medicine (or drug) and why you are taking it
  • How many times a day to take it. For example, If it says “take 4 times a day,” does this mean 4 times in 24 hours, or 4 times while you are awake during the daytime (Breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime)
  • Do you take with or without food?
  • What if I forget a dose? What do I do?
  • What side effects can I expect and what do I do if I have problems with the medicine?

Don’t forget about your pharmacist.  It is always a good idea to get all of your medications/drugs filled at the same pharmacy. This way your pharmacist is aware of everything you are taking and will be alerted if some of your drugs may cause problems while taking with others.  They can provide you with a wealth of information about when to take, what to expect and what to look out for.

Doing your part:

Keep a list of your meds handy so will have for emergencies, for doctor appointments and in case new meds are added. Take your meds at the times your doctor has prescribed. Do not skip doses of your meds or cut the dose in half to save money. Avoid mixing your meds with alcohol. Take your meds until they are finished or until your doctor tells you to stop taking them. Do not take other peoples prescriptions or give yours to others. Keep all medications out of the reach of children.

Always remember, medications or drugs; prescriptions or OTC meds can hurt you if they are not taken properly. Always be a smart consumer of medicine and ask lots of questions if you are unsure how to take something.

Resource: NIH National Institute on Aging

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