When can you stop taking your medication?

You’ve been on antibiotics for a few days now to combat that infection, but you’re already feeling much better. Should you stop taking your meds?

Or maybe you are taking meds for your blood pressure, but you don’t feel sick anymore. Is it fine to stop taking them?

Absolutely not!

Your doctor prescribed your medication for a reason. If you don’t take your medication exactly as prescribed, you can have many complications, such as unnecessary hospitalisation, delayed recovery, increased healthcare costs and even death.

Why people stop too soon

Many people stop taking their medication when they feel better. Once they stop, their symptoms just return – sometimes worse than before. People with mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, are known for stopping medication once the symptoms of their condition improve. Unfortunately, this can have a negative effect on your social, emotional and physical wellbeing.

In fact, you’re just setting yourself up for getting sicker more often. The World Health Organization (WHO) says, “Always complete your full prescription of antibiotics, even if you feel better, because stopping treatment early promotes the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.”

Chronic (long-term conditions) and meds

A chronic condition is a lifelong condition. This means that if you have a chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension, you can’t ever “stop” taking your medication – even if you think you feel better.

Tips to make the most of your treatment:

  • Don’t end up a casualty of not taking your medication! The South African Depression and Anxiety Group estimate that patients’ refusal to take their medication causes up to two million emergencies each year.
  • Take your medication exactly as your doctor prescribed. This means at the right time and for the period of time he’s instructed. If you’re using over-the-counter medication, read and follow the leaflet instructions carefully.
  • Don’t stop taking the medication if you feel it’s not helping. Speak to your doctor first.
  • Keep all your medications in their original containers.
  • To avoid mistakes, don’t take medicine in the dark.
  • Make sure you get your prescriptions refilled well in advance – before you run out.
  • When you’re travelling, pack your medicine in your carry-on bag so it never gets lost.
  • Take a large enough supply to last during your visit. It’s also a good idea to take a copy of your written prescription with you.
  • Make your medication-taking a routine, at the same time each day.
  • Keep notes of any side-effects and discuss with your doctor.
  • Stick to your follow-up appointments. Ask your doctor to send you an SMS reminder a day or two in advance.
  • Store your medication in a cool, dry place, or as directed. The bathroom or kitchen isn’t ideal.
  • Don’t share your chronic medication with others.
  • Remember that your doctor’s instructions regarding lifestyle changes are as important as taking your chronic medication.
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