The United States is on drugs.
It’s almost unbelievable how many people in the U.S. currently take prescription drugs – as many as 70 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic.
That means that nearly 220 million people around the country have prescription drugs in their medicine cabinets, alongside the band-aids and sunscreen. And when you include over-the-counter medications, you can see why the pharmaceutical industry is worth roughly $10 billion in the U.S. alone – as high as $300 billion globally.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives this December, has found that a surprising number of people are suffering from health problems as a direct result of poor organization of these medications.
Researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Chicago’s Northwestern University evaluated the ability of patients to safely take medications, as well as how a patient’s cognitive abilities factored in.
The study found that a number of patients struggled to identify their medications, even when they were labeled properly. They relied on shape, size and color, instead of double-checking labels. When the patients change medications or brands, the appearance of the medication often changes, adding to the confusion.
The consequences can be serious.
Patients over the age of 50 with high blood pressure were interviewed for the study; many had trouble identifying their medications. Those that had a hard time identifying, organizing and properly taking their medications tended to be hospitalized more and had less blood pressure control than those that were able to keep their medications organized. Many patients couldn’t name their medications, indicating a fairly low level of health literacy.
For those who are on medications, it is very important that they can organize their various drugs. The medications must be taken at a certain time of day, and often in a certain order. Here are some tips that can help everyone to manage their medications:
Clean out the cabinet. When a medicine cabinet is filled with unnecessary medications, it can make organization more difficult. It’s important to remove any expired or no longer used medication to make space for the current drugs.
Use a pill box. Pill boxes make it easier to remember what needs to be taken and when. They come in all shapes and sizes, so purchase a pill box according to the medications you are taking.
Get help from a caregiver. If the patient taking medication is unable to manage their drugs, it’s important for a caregiver to provide assistance. Whether it’s a spouse, a child or a hired caregiver, it’s important to get help if needed.
Make it a simple, personalized system. The person managing the medications should use a simple system that’s easy to remember: Pills by day and time, for example. Keep it simple, and it will be easier to remember.