Using Medications Safely

Dear Friends:

I found myself in the position of having to go off a medication due to severe side effects.  All I was told by my doctor was to stop taking it.   As I had been on it for three months, I did research on the internet to see how to wean off the medication safely.  Could I just stop or did I have to wean off slowly?

To my surprise, nowhere could I find any such information.  There is plenty of data on any drug i.e. what it does, possible side effects etc., but not how to go off it.

I therefore decided to look up what kind of reliable information was available so that I have a better understanding as to when to get help instead of needlessly putting up with more than is tolerable which I would like to share with you.  This is a summary of what I have found for those who are limited in energy but the links are also there for more information.



Using Medications Safely

Taking medications correctly can help treat diseases and conditions but it’s important they are taken correctly.  All medications carry risks known as side effects or adverse reactions even when taken correctly.  

For this reason, it’s important to follow directions and to let your doctor(s) know you medical history in order to reduce the risk of side effects.  For instance, combining medication with certain foods, beverages, vitamins or other health products can cause harmful interactions, the medication is not working as it should and may actually cause more health problems.

How To Reduce Your Risk of Reactions to Medications

  • Always use medication as directed by your doctor or pharmacist;
  • Always know under what conditions to stop medication;
  • Always know what to do if you missed a dose; 
  • Always read the product label and follow directions closely;
  • Always let your doctor or pharmacist know what natural health products you are taking as they can affect your medications;
  • Always let your pharmacist or doctor know if you have allergies or sensitivities, are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to have a baby;
  • Always take your medicines at the same  time;
  • Always let your doctor pharmacist know if you have trouble swallowing.

Get To Know Your Pharmacist

It’s important to use the same pharmacy for all your prescriptions so that he/she will get to know you and your medical history so that it will be possible to identify any harmful interactions with any other medications you are taking.

In the end, I spoke with my pharmacist as to how to wean off the medication safely.  Once a doctor has advised you to get off a medication, your pharmacist will be able to tell you how to do it safely.  In my case, it turns out I was just able to just stop the medication immediately.  This may not be the case for all.

Learn The Facts About Your Medication


  • Why you’re being prescribed the medication;
  • How it should work;
  • How to minimize side effects;
  • Possible harmful interactions with food, beverages, vitamins or herbal supplements;
  • When you should feel better; 
  • If and when to go back to your doctor for follow-up; and
  • Report problems with the medication to your doctor;  

 A Patient Guide for Reporting Side Effects from Health Products

Who to Report to:

Canada Vigilance Program 

What to Report:

Health Products, including both prescription, non-prescription medications, biologics, vaccines, natural health products and radiopharmaceuticals.

How to Report:

Online at

Completing a Consumer Side  Effect Form which can be sent by mail; or

By fax toll-free to 1-866-678-6789.

Where to Report:

NIH [National Library of Medicine]

Can Use of Homeopathic and Herbal Remedies Impact Prescription Products 


An extensive literature review on occurrence of adverse reactions and drug interactions following use of homeopathic or herbal remedies was conducted.  The survey shows that there is a need for greater awareness of adverse reactions between conventional medicine, homeopathic and herbal remedies due to confusion as to whether the adverse reaction is from conventional medicine or alternative therapies.  This is enhanced if the health professional is unaware of the patient’s alternative therapies and self-medication.

Footnote: Use this medication chart for both prescription and non-prescription medication.

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