Jenilee Matz has a master’s degree in public health and worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a health communications specialist. She writes for several health publications including Everyday Health, HealthDay, and Diabetic Connect.

You take a blood sugar pill and blood pressure pill every morning. Later, you take an antidepressant. Then there’s your daily aspirin and sleeping pill. You think that’s everything …

Does this sound familiar? People with diabetes often need to take several medicines. In fact, 4 in 5 adults take one or more prescriptions each day – and this doesn’t include over-the-counter (OTC) meds, vitamins, and supplements.

Taking multiple medications isn’t as simple as it sounds. If you make a mistake – which is easy to do – the consequences could be serious.

The power of medication

Adverse drug events – when someone is harmed by medicine – send more than 700,000 people to the emergency room each year. The more drugs you take, the greater your risk.

If you make a mistake, such as taking the wrong dose at the wrong time or taking incorrect or incompatible medicines, you could suffer dangerous effects like an adverse drug interaction. This is when one medicine mixes with another in your body and causes a serious problem.

How to avoid medication mix-ups

Before you take a new drug, follow these tips:

-Let all of your doctors know all of the drugs you take – including prescription, OTC meds, vitamins, and supplements. This can prevent one doctor from prescribing a medication that may interact with a medicine from another doctor.

-Ask your doctor what you need to avoid when taking a new medication. Not only can drugs interact with each other, but what you eat and drink while taking medicine can have an effect, too.

-Use one pharmacy for all of your prescriptions. Your pharmacist can spot if one drug shouldn’t be taken with another. Also, ask your pharmacist before taking any OTC medications, vitamins, or supplements.

These tips can help you take medications safely:

-Arrange your meds in a pill organizer. Refill the pill organizer each day or week. Make sure it has enough compartments for all the times of day you take your drugs – separate slots for morning, noon, and night.

-Keep a checklist. Use this daily. Include the name of each drug, the dose, and what time it should be taken. Check off a box when you take the medication. Use a new copy of the checklist each day.

-Take your pills in a well-lit room so you can see them clearly and make sure you’re taking the right one.

-Set alarms for when you need to take your meds. Try the alarm on your phone.

-Keep your pills in the original container until you put them in the pill organizer. You’ll be less likely to mistake one pill for another.

-Check expiration dates. Ask your pharmacist how to properly throw away expired medication.

-Only take drugs that are prescribed to you. Never use anyone else’s prescription.

-Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. This also means you shouldn’t stop taking a medication unless directed by your doctor. You may feel better, but still need the medication.

To learn more about this topic:
The Important Role of Prescription Diabetes Meds
Remember to Take Your Diabetes Medication
10 Tips to Avoid Deadly Medication Mistakes