What are common reasons for not taking medications?

Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine
Physical impairments can interfere with taking medications -- for example, arthritis in the hands can make opening medication containers difficult. Depression is associated with non-adherence, as is asymptomatic illness -- high blood pressure and glaucoma, for example, often present with few or no symptoms, and without these "physical reminders" to take your meds, you may not think you even need them.

Conversely, the drugs may cause side effects that make you feel worse instead of better, and this may put you off taking them. We call this "intelligent non-compliance," but it's vital that you don't stop taking your meds without first consulting your doctor, so call him or her -- don't wait for your next appointment to discuss your concerns. In the case of side effects, substituting an alternative drug may help, while complicated dosing schedules may be simplified by switching to a combined drug or a long-acting form. If your non-adherence is caused by forgetfulness, it can be helpful to connect taking the medication with daily activities such as eating meals or going to bed. Another good self-help measure is to use a pill reminder box.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.