The Depression and Anxiety Experts

How to Take All of Your Medications All of the Time

For most of us, it’s a challenge remembering to take our medications on a regular basis. How many times have you thought, “Did I take my pills this morning?”

It’s important because research clearly shows that better medication adherence (the scientific term for “take all your medicine”) leads to better health outcomes (and lower healthcare costs).

Taking your medications as prescribed is vital in depression and anxiety treatment. There’s a time urgency to reduce the suffering, pain and suicide risk from depression and anxiety.

According to the research, not taking your medications regularly, leads to worse outcomes. For example, missing your anti-depressant leads to worse depression and anxiety and missing your cholesterol medication or high blood pressure medication is linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

It’s also important to recall that depression and anxiety are chronic illnesses and their treatments frequently last for a year or more. So taking your psychiatric medications is more of a marathon than a sprint.

For these reasons, it’s important to think about adherence from the get-go.

Here are four strategies to improve medication adherence:

  1. Education

People who understand why they are taking their medications, how to take it, or what to expect in terms of side effects are more likely to take their medications. Understanding the value of taking a medication increases motivation to take it and get better. Ask your doctor or nurse about each medication that you take and do your own research online.

  1. Simplify Medication Regimens

Just reducing taking medication to once daily from twice daily improves adherence by 25%, Complex medication regimens can be overwhelming. Ask your doctor to simplify medication regimens as much as possible. I try to prescribe once daily dosing wherever possible.

  1. Pair Your Medications with a Daily Activity

Keeping your medication next to your toothbrush, the kettle, your pajamas or another daily task cues you to take them. What daily activity will help you remember to take your medication?

  1. Use a Pill Box and Automated Reminders

A pill box is a simple way to remember to take your medications. It easily answers the question, “Have I already taken my medication this morning?”

A pill box also saves time because instead of opening multiple bottles every morning, you organize your medications once a week.  This is helpful because many people who take medications in the morning are rushing off to start their day.

Smartphone alarms can also be set as a daily reminder. One of my patients keeps his medications near a whiteboard calendar and checks off the date once he has taken his pills. There are also other technological solutions such as smart pill boxes and apps that are helpful, but I think that a simple pill box offers the most bang for your buck.

If you would like a free pill box, fill out this form and Debra will mail one out to you or you can pick one up at your next appointment.

Remember, adherence leads to better health (and lower long-term health costs).

Wishing you vitality!

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