Three Strategies to Prevent Overmedication

Udaiyaa Bommudurai, Writer

Before we can get into overmedication prevention, we have to understand what overmedication is exactly. Overmedication is a problem in today’s society that has been around for as long as medications have been around. Although issues like substance abuse and lack of opioid affordability get attention, overmedication is less well known. Overmedication includes both the excessive use of prescription drugs as well as of legal, over-the-counter medications. 


General symptoms of overmedication are fatigue and aches, pressure in the abdomen, problems with balance and motor skills, and rapid changes in weight. Excessive drug usage associated with overmedication can lead to mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety, as well as accidental overdose and organ damage, like liver failure. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration suggests that in the United States, around 1.3 million people visited emergency rooms due to unforeseen side effects from excessive drug use and interactions, with around 124,000 of them dying in 2014 (Lesser, 2021).


Strategy #1: Electronic Prescribing

One of the most basic causes of overmedication is miscommunication between doctors and patients. Patients may be taking different medications already and forget to notify their doctors. Thus, they end up taking more medications than necessary, some of which may even cause harmful drug interactions in the body. That’s where electronic prescribing comes in. With e-prescribing, healthcare providers can enter prescriptions into computer devices and send them to pharmacies, which helps reduce medication errors and drug interactions because pharmacists can then compare prescriptions from different places. In fact, thanks to e-prescribing, error rates in prescriptions decreased from 42.5% to 6.6% (Kaushal, Kern, Barron, Quaresimo, and Abramson, 2019). 


Strategy #2: Natural Remedies and Lifestyle Changes

Perhaps the easiest way to prevent overmedication is to find substitutes for drugs. Pharmaceutical companies contribute significantly to overmedication. They make money by selling drugs, so their priorities may be compromised. According to research from Yale University, “The advertisements don’t often represent the best treatment of medication available…They’re selling products” (Ross, n.d.). When people see drug commercials on television, they’re more likely to buy them. A simple way to not be tempted by prime time television is to substitute medication with natural remedies and making lifestyle changes. One such example would be drinking chamomile to calm anxiety and induce relaxation. Instead of taking medication to calm down, a person could try chamomile tea. Another example is turmeric. Turmeric contains curcumin, which is a bioactive compound with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (Gunnars and Warick, 2021). A healthier diet and exercise can prevent many ailments that require medication. Of course, these are just suggestions and someone taking medications should always talk to their doctor before deciding to stop.

Strategy #3: Communication


Last but certainly not least, we have communication. This includes both miscommunication between doctors and patients, as mentioned above with electronic prescribing, but also miscommunication between family members. The elderly are one of the highest risk populations for overmedication. Senior citizens do not metabolize drugs quickly, sometimes live alone, see multiple doctors, and often forget to tell doctors about other medications. In general, 67 percent of adults 62 to 85 years old take prescription medications and over-counter-supplements (Fulmer, 2019). It’s important for people to check in with grandparents and other elderly relatives from time to time to make sure they’re taking medications properly. Remind them to go to checkups and take care of themselves. Proper communication between family members can prevent overmedication just as well as proper communication with doctors.


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