How to Take Medicine the Right Way

Updated on March 23, 2019
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Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She researches and shares remedies for using certain products for illnesses.

Bottle of Pills
Bottle of Pills | Source

When some people get a prescription for medicine from their physician they believe that taking the first dosage is going to help cure them of their illness. That would be great if that happens, but it usually doesn't. Otherwise, the bottle would contain only one or two capsules.

There is a reason a prescription contains a 30-day supply of pills, capsules or topical gel.

Take medicine with water
Take medicine with water | Source

Wash Pills Down With Water and No Other Liquid

Most people do it the right way by washing their pills down with water and no other liquid. However, they fail to wash the pill down with enough water. You should drink a full glass of water after putting a pill in your mouth whether it is an aspirin for an occasional headache or a couple of pills for something much more serious.

Most medicine for children is already in a liquid form that doesn't require water to wash it down, but adults should never swallow pills or supplements without a full glass of water.

Coffee, tea, juice, milk, alcoholic beverages or any other liquid shouldn't be chasers for medicine. That's because liquids other than water might interfere with the medicine and keep it from doing what it was designed to do.

You should always wash medicine down with water and not try to swallow the pills without some help. It is much harder to swallow pills without some liquid. They will not go into your bloodstream quickly. Instead, they will linger around in your mouth or throat and slow absorption and delay pain relief.

If you wash your pills down with a liquid other than water, some medicines will lose their effectiveness and will not be absorbed adequately into the bloodstream. Liquids other than water can affect your metabolism and alter the length of time medicine will remain in your body.

You might as well not take the medication at all if you are not going to take it the way as directed.

All types of pills, tablets, and capsules.
All types of pills, tablets, and capsules. | Source

Take Medicine as Directed

There are other things to know besides taking medicines with water and no other liquid.

Take Medicine as Is
Do not crush pills, tablets, or capsules. Take them as they are in order to get the best benefits.

Take With or Without Food
It matters whether you take medicine with or without food. Read the directions on the label that comes with your medications. You might receive an upset stomach if you do not take some medicine with food. There are some medications you should not take with food. Instead, the instruction might tell you to take it after you have eaten.

Don't Lie Down
People should not lie down for at least 10 minutes after taking some drugs even though patients in a hospital are given some medicines while in bed. Apparently, those are medicines that do not matter if people take them when they are lying down.

Take Medication in Original Form
Swallow pills whole instead of crushing, chewing, or breaking them. Otherwise, the special coating on them will be destroyed and may increase side effects.

Take Medicine at the Right Time
Some medications should be taken at or around the same time every day instead of when you feel like taking it. If the direction is to take a pill twice a day, take one in the morning and the other one in the evening. Make sure there is some space in between dosages.

Use Correct Dosage
To minimize the risks of side effects, use the correct dosage. Never think that if one tablet is good for you, then two will be better. Do not increase the dosage or take medicine more often than prescribed. While the correct dosage will heal you, the incorrect dosage could kill you.

Never Double Up on a Dose
If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember to do so unless it is time for your next dose. Don't take two dosages together. Skip the missed dose and only take the regular does. Never take a double dose to make up for the one you missed.

Obey the Warnings
Pay close attention to the warnings that come with your medicine. For example, it could be dangerous to your health if you eat grapefruits or drink grapefruit juice while taking certain medicines.

Never Share Medicines
Don’t share your medicines with anyone else. Do not take medicines prescribed to another person. Physicians prescribe medications based on a person's medical condition. While that medicine might help others, it might harm you.

Take your medication by mouth with a full glass of water and not just a couple of sips.

Be Patient as a Patient

For certain conditions, it may take a while before the medicine kicks in and gives you relief. For instance, it may take up to two weeks of regular use before the full benefits of a drug for arthritis to take effect. It doesn't take that long for a headache or other ailments.

When you have medicine to take on an "as needed" basis, take it at the first sign of pain. It is much harder for a drug to help if you wait until the pain is at its height of intensity.

Keep Medications in a Safe Place

People usually keep their medicines in one of four common places.

  1. Medicine cabinet
  2. Refrigerator
  3. Linen closet
  4. Kitchen cabinet

Most people keep their medications in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom where it is hot and humid. Dr. Richard Besser, News Chief Health and Medical Editor on Good Morning America during his segment Doc at Your Door once said the medicine cabinet is a dangerous place to keep your medicine. There are better places to keep them. For example, eye drops are better when stored in the refrigerator under a cooler condition.

While some medicine is best kept in the refrigerator, other medicines should be kept in a dark and cool place like your linen closet. Medicine will last much longer there.

Some people like to keep their medicines in a kitchen cabinet near the sink so they can get a full glass of water.

Cautions About Medicines

Expired Medicines
Medicine should not be kept beyond the expiration date because it is no longer potent. Taking it will not help you at all.

Loose Lids
Make sure lids are closed and kept tight on all medicines bottles.

Do Not Flush Unused Medicine
Do not dump unused pills directly in the trash, down the sink, in the garbage disposal, or flush them down the toilet.

You can put whole tablets in an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds. Place the mixture in Ziploc sealable plastic bags or coffee can, and put the container in your household trash.

Pills, Tablets, and Capsules
Pills, Tablets, and Capsules | Source

Donate Unused Medicine

In some states, patients can donate unused drugs. However, expired and controlled substances cannot be donated. You cannot receive payment for donated medicine.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sponsors periodic national prescription drug take-back days. Collection sites are set up around the country. People can take unused or expired medications there where they can be disposed of in a safe manner. Check to find out when those collection sites are available in your locality.


Heart Org (2018, March 31) APA citation. Taking Control of Your Medicines. Retrieved from

National Institute on Aging. (2017, May 23) APA citation. Safe Use of Medicines for Older Adults. Retrieved from

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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