Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Taking Medicines as Prescribed
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health, and perhaps your life, at risk.
Taking your medicines as your doctor says may include:
You may be taking medicine for a long-term (chronic) health problem. Some chronic diseases can be controlled, but they usually cannot be cured. You may need to take one or more medicines for the rest of your life.
Here are some examples of common chronic health problems and how medicines help:
Taking a lot of pills increases your chances of having problems. If you take more than one medicine that works the same way, you could get too high a dose. And sometimes medicines work against each other. So make sure you know how to stay safe when you take several medicines.
For some ideas about how you can remember to take your medicines, pay for them, and when to call your doctor, see Quick Tips: Taking Medicines Wisely.
People don't take medicines properly for many reasons. If you're having problems taking your medicines as prescribed, it may help to think about why you're having trouble. When your reasons are clear, you can find ways to deal with the problems. This may make it easier to take your medicines as your doctor wants you to.
Here are some common concerns about taking medicines, along with some ideas for dealing with them.
"Medicines cause side effects that bother me."
"The medicine makes me feel worse."
"I think the medicine is making my health problem worse."
What you can do
For more information, see the topic Dealing With Medicine Side Effects and Interactions.
"Medicine costs too much."
"I don't have insurance."
For more information, see the topic Reducing Medication Costs.
"It's hard to keep track of so many medicines."
"I forget when and how to take all of these medicines."
"Sometimes I just forget to take my medicines."
For more information, see the topic Keeping Track of Medicines.
" I keep getting interrupted before I can take my medicine."
"My schedule keeps changing, so it's hard to remember to take my medicine."
"I run out of my medicine."
"I feel good, so I don't take my medicine."
"I don't think my medicine is working."
"I need to use an inhaler, but it's too hard to use."
"I have to give myself a shot, and it's hard for me."
"It's hard for me to swallow pills."
Other Works Consulted
Lorig K, et al. (2006). Managing your medicines. In Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, 3rd ed., pp. 239–253. Boulder, CO: Bull.
Current as of:
August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.