Dos and Don'ts for Prescription Medications

Medications can have serious side effects when they are not taken properly or when they are combined with other over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, supplements, or natural remedies. Here are some simple "dos & donts" to help minimize negative consequences.

Prescription Medication Dos

  • DO follow the exact dose and schedule prescribed by your doctor.
  • DO ask your doctor about any possible side effects to watch for, and report any that you experience.
  • DO ask your doctor about any and all over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, supplements, or natural remedies that you are taking or want to take.
  • DO talk with your doctor about over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, supplements, or natural remedies if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding. Some medications or supplements may not be safe during these times.
  • DO ask your doctor or pharmacist how to take your medicine properly (ie, with or without food?, with or without milk?, with extra water?).
  • DO tell your doctor about past problems you've had with drugs, such as rashes, indigestion, dizziness, or appetite loss.
  • DO keep a daily record of the drugs you are taking.
  • DO review your drug record with each of your doctors at each visit, and when any doctor prescribes a new medicine.
  • DO ask your pharmacist for large print if you cannot read the label.
  • DO check the expiration date and throw out any expired medications.
  • DO call your doctor right away if you have any problems with your medicine.
  • DO plan ahead for refills so that you don't run out.

Prescription Medication Don'ts

  • DO NOT stop taking a prescription drug unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • DO NOT take more or less than the amount prescribed.
  • DO NOT mix alcohol and medicine unless your doctor specifically says it's okay.
  • DO NOT take medications prescribed for someone else.
  • DO NOT let anyone else take medications prescribed for you.
  • DO NOT crush tablets unless you check with your doctor or pharmacist. Some medications (eg, long-acting formulations) have special coating and cannot be crushed.


The Institute for Safe Medication Practices

US Food and Drug Administration


Health Canada

Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety


The National Women's Health Information Center website. Available at: