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3 things to ask your doctor before you take medication

You go to your doctor and explain your symptoms, and she listens carefully. After some thought, she explains the health issue she believes you have and suggests treatment that includes medication. Relief is as close as your nearest pharmacy. 

Before you pop the first pill, here are a few things about your prescription that you should consider.

1. Is it habit-forming?

With the opioid crisis a nationally acknowledged phenomenon, you may want to discuss with your doctor whether the dose and duration of a pain medication might lead to future issues. It may be that there are better options that would not put you at risk of dependence. Amphetamines, benzodiazepines and stimulants may also lead to addiction. Although the law increasing holds doctors accountable for their role in promoting substance abuse, laws cannot right the wrong in a patient's life.

2. Does it interact with other medications?

Your doctor should check your medical record and ask for details about every medication you take, including the ones you buy over the counter at the store. Many seemingly harmless combinations could actually cause serious complications, or they may even be fatal.

Your pharmacist provides another level of defense, though. These professionals have an even more intimate knowledge of drugs than your doctor may because of their specialization, and they typically must offer counsel to you when you pick up the medication. If you use the same pharmacy all the time, the people who work there may be familiar enough with your regular orders to spot an issue if your doctor misses something.

3. Does the potential benefit outweigh the risk?

All drugs come with some risk of side effects. Your doctor should talk about these with you so you can provide informed consent. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality notes that elderly patients and children, in particular, have a higher chance of reaction to certain medications. Factors that could affect your reaction to a drug include your weight, age and ability to follow the instructions on the label. Drug companies must provide detailed descriptions of possible side effects, so even after you and your doctor have talked it over, read all the information given to you before you take the first dose.

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