There are many forms of drugs. A drug is a chemical that when introduced into the body will modify its responses in some way. Prescription drugs ordered by your doctor; over-the-counter drugs from the supermarket or drug store; marijuana or heroin bought on the street; or alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine consumed for pleasure are all drugs that can cause changes in your body.
If you have an illness or if you have been suffering from the effects of an accident or surgery, drugs may be necessary to help you get better. In fact, there may be times when drugs will literally save your life. However, any good doctor will tell you that drugs can have negative as well as positive effects on your body.
As you grow older, your body changes and drugs affect you differently. Remember when you could drink several cups of coffee in the evening and have no problem getting sleep? Now the caffeine may have a different effect. Another inevitable fact is that the older you get, the more apt you are to take medication. Also drugs tend to stay active longer in the older person, so less medication is required to treat certain conditions compared to when you were younger.
Some older people suffer from one or more chronic illnesses and, therefore, regular visits to several different specialists may be necessary. Once again the responsibility for making sure that you get the proper drug treatment lies on your shoulders to some extent. You can help yourself and your doctor by keeping a written record of all the medications that you take. List the non-prescription drugs as well as the prescription drugs, dosages, and how long you have been taking each drug.
If your doctor prescribes a new medication, be sure to find out what the drug is and why you are prescribed that particular drug. You should know how much quantity of the drug you should take, how often you should take and for how long. You need to know how the drug is supposed to affect you and what the possible side effects might be. Ask about its effects in combination with other medication that you are taking. Finally, it is important to know what to do if the problems occur. Knowing something about how drugs work in your body and how to take them correctly can certainly maximize the positive effects and minimize potential harm.
|| PRESCRIPTION DRUGS FOR SENIORS
Prescription drugs are ordered by your doctor for a specific health problem. The effectiveness of the drug will depend on many factors: the physical condition of the person, the dosage, the frequency with which it is taken and the compliance by the user.
It is very important that drugs be taken exactly as prescribed.
There are several reasons why drugs are not taken properly. Some patients do not understand the directions, are not aware of the importance of following the directions or think erroneously, that if a little would help, a lot would be better. Sometimes, the conditions under which the medication is to be taken are not convenient, so they change it to suit themselves. A medication may have side effects and so they stop taking it. And, of course, patients can forget. Proper use of medication can mean the difference between success and failure in treating your particular condition. The following checklist includes important reminders about proper prescription use.
- Always follow directions carefully.
- Do not stop taking your medicine without checking with your doctor.
- Contact your doctor if any unusual symptoms occur.
- Keep medicines in original containers.
- Keep bottles capped tightly.
- Ask how to keep the medicine fresh since some medicines need refrigeration.
- Do not hesitate to ask for regular screw caps if childproof tops are hard for you to open.
- Do not put two or more medicines in one container.
- Always check labels before taking medication.
- Do not use leftover medicine from a previous illness.
- Take only medicines prescribed for you — do not use another patient's medicine for the same symptom.
- Dispose of leftover medicines in a safe manner. Pharmacies will dispose of medicines, but it is a good idea to check that they do not simply get dumped where they can do environmental harm.
- Do not take medicines after the expiry date.
- Keep a permanent record of allergies or reactions to certain medicines.
- Develop a schedule and system for taking medications.
- Do not double up on medications, if you have missed a dose.
- Store your medication is safe places avoiding extreme heat, humidity and light.
- Do not take medications at night without turning on the light.
- Seek a second opinion if your doctor ignores or dismisses your symptoms of any reaction to a drug.
Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs have various effects on your body:
- A therapeutic response is a beneficial effect that results in the intended outcome (e.g., lowering fever or reducing infection).
- A side effect is a response other than the desired effect (e.g., drowsiness, upset stomach, dry mouth).
- A toxic reaction is one that is poisonous or possibly fatal.
- An adverse reaction is an unexpected or unusual response (e.g., an allergic reaction).
- An overdose is when more than an appropriate dose is taken or given.
Your unique reaction to certain drugs can be affected by your diet, habits, other drugs, physical condition, genetics, environment, and the amount and frequency of use. Two interactions that are particularly important are drug-drug interactions and food-drag interactions. When you take two or more drugs, several things can happen. One drug can make another drug work faster or slower. Drugs can multiply the effect of each other causing an unwanted or dangerous effect.
Some prescription drugs commonly involved in drug-drug interactions are anticoagulant medicines used to treat circulatory problems. Non-prescription drugs and antacids can prevent the anticoagulant from being absorbed fast enough to gain the desired effect. Even non-prescription drags like antihistamines for cold relief can increase the sedative effects of anesthetics, tranquillizers and some painkillers. Aspirin can greatly increase the blood-thinning abilities of anticoagulants which could increase the possibility of bleeding.
Drag-food interactions are important to understand in order to take your medicines correctly. Food can interact with drags to make them act slower or faster. In some cases, certain interactions can prevent the drug from working at all. The instructions on the prescription bottles give vital information about how to take the medicine. Instructions about taking the medicine on an empty or full stomach or not eating certain kinds of food with your medication are very important. The following examples illustrate some possible effects:
- Calcium in dairy products impairs absorption of some kinds of antibiotics.
- Citrus fruits or juices containing ascorbic acid (vitamin C) speed the absorption of iron from iron supplements.
- Soft drinks, and fruit and vegetable juices with acid content cause some drugs to dissolve in the stomach
instead of the intestines where they can be more readily absorbed.
- Absorbing too much vitamin K, found in leafy green vegetables, can interfere with the action of anticoagulants used to treat heart disease.
- One of the most potentially hazardous food-drug interactions are involved when the drugs prescribed for depression and/or high blood pressure are mixed with foods containing tyramine, including aged cheese, pickled herring, yogurt, sour cream, chicken liver and chianti wine.
Nutrients contained in certain foods can have a positive effect in combating negative effects by prolonged use of certain drags. For example, prolonged use of diuretics (water pills) can lead to potassium deficiency. Foods high in potassium such as tomatoes, bananas, oranges, and potatoes can help replace the losses.
||MIXING ALCOHOL AND DRUGS
Using alcohol when you are taking drugs can cause serious problems. For example, alcohol reduces the effectiveness of some drugs and mixes with others to produce toxic or even fatal results. As a person grows older, the impact of alcohol on the system becomes even more pronounced. Many over-the-counter drugs contain a great deal of alcohol. You should always ask about the interaction of alcohol and the medicine you have been given. Antibiotics, anticoagulants, antihistamines, ant diabetic drags, high blood pressure drags, antidepressants, tranquillizers, and sedatives are some of the common drags that have potentially dangerous interactions with alcohol.
The excessive use of alcohol makes any physical problem worse. It can have profound physical effects on your brain function, sensory perception, muscle control, judgment and self-control, and memory. The four basic categories of alcohol users are abstainers, social drinkers, dependent drinkers and abusers.
It is estimated that five million Americans and Canadians past the age of 60 are to some degree, dependent drinkers. In the senior years, the consumption of alcohol often increases in relation to factors such as retirement, boredom, decreased income, loss of self-esteem, declining health, and loss of friends and loved ones. What starts out as a temporary relief often becomes a problem. Alcohol abuse can sneak up on you before you realize it. Here are some of the warning signals that a problem has developed.
- Drinking to reduce worries and depression.
- Lying about drinking habits.
- Loss of interest in food.
- Worrying about drinking too much at social events.
- Remembering every detail of the very first drink.
- Drinking too fast.
- Personality changes due to drinking.
- Drinking larger quantities without appearing drunk.
- Drinking alone.
- Drinking early in the morning.
- Getting drunk more often.
- Blackouts or loss of memory while drinking.
If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, seek help from your doctor, minister, rabbi or local mental health agency. The older problem drinker has a good chance for recovery. Be wise and take charge of your life; alcohol can have devastating effects on your health.
||SAFETY ASSESSMENT FOR SENIORS
I wear a seat belt when I am in a motor vehicle.
- I do not drive after I consume alcoholic beverages.
- I have a list of emergency numbers by my telephone.
- I take steps to prevent unnecessary accidents around my
home (e.g., increase lighting in dark areas, have the
furnace checked regularly, tack down loose rugs, etc.)
- I have smoke detectors in my home.
- I avoid unsafe walking areas (e.g., wet pavement, gravel,
uneven pavement, etc.).
- I take my prescription medications as directed.
- (h) I limit my alcohol intake to two beers or two ounces per day.