THE BLOG

How to Take Pills Regularly

Once you get this rhythm down, you'll find taking pills are no longer a source of stress. You might be amazed how much benefit you can get from simple steps when you're able to do them consistently.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Dear Dr. C,

This might sound odd, but how can I quit forgetting to take my vitamins? I get my blood tested every few months, and my vitamin D is always low. I try to take it three times daily, but I always quit after a few weeks, and I don't know why.

I lost 13 pounds on the Adrenal Reset Diet, and I'm almost thriving!

Thank you for writing this book,

Brooke, New York

2016-04-14-1460601934-7168220-SupplementBottles2.jpg

Hi Brooke,

Thanks for the question. You're not alone. We all find ourselves not following through on our best intentions. This is an excellent question that many of our best minds in public health have struggled with for some time.

Would you believe that people who are afraid of dying still have this same problem? The graph below represents how successful adults were with taking medication to prevent the risk of a second stroke. By two years out, most had quit their treatment. [1]

2016-04-14-1460601997-8589408-Slide1.JPG

Two things that make it worse are (1) how many pills you take and (2) how often you take them. The graph below shows how adding pills lowered the odds of regularly taking two different medications, based on how many other pills patients were taking. The line with the circles shows that only about 30% took both pills regularly, with regularly being defined as 80 percent of the time. [2]

2016-04-14-1460602037-9848878-Slide2.JPG

How often you take pills can also be a factor. Once daily is much easier than more than once daily. Four times daily is the hardest of all. [3]

2016-04-14-1460602069-3714308-Slide3.JPG

How can you do better? Make a weekly pill ritual!

We are all creatures of habit. Use this to your advantage, and create a simple pill-management ritual. I created this system for myself when I did lots of back-to-back surgeries for cerebral palsy issues. I knew taking my pre- and post-surgical supplements would be critical for recovery, and I did not want to miss a single dose. This ritual gave me momentum that makes it easy now.

The first step is scheduling time in the week for pill management. I set aside 15 minutes each Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Another block of time will work -- just choose a time in your week in which nothing important will intrude, and you're not pressured with other tasks or obligations.

Set this up as a recurrent event, so it happens each week at the same time.

Here is what to do with that 15 minutes:

1. Write
-- Create a list of nonprescription and prescription pills you take. Include the following:
  • Dosage
  • Potency
  • How often to take
  • Whether to take with or without food
  • How long to stay on
  • What they are for

Below is a table with sample entries. I've attached a blank version of this table HERE.

2016-04-14-1460602153-8026790-Slide4.JPG

2. Review -- Once you've made your list the first week, just give it a glance each week to update any changes.

3. Refill -- Look at your supplies. Reorder anything that will run out within the next two weeks. That will give you plenty of leeway if your supplies are delayed for some reason or if you need to request refills from your provider.

4. Restock -- Use a pill box, and fill it up for the coming week, unless your pills are pre-packaged for you. The better pill boxes are portable enough for travel.

2016-04-14-1460602198-7967431-Pillorganizer.jpg

5. Remind -- Find a reminder system, and make sure it is set for the week. Lots of apps are available that do this well. Look ahead, and make sure your alarms are all set for the right times. Revise if your current system is not working for some reason.

2016-04-14-1460602225-9344874-rxmindme.jpg

The most surefire reminders are built into pill boxes.

2016-04-14-1460602252-8480834-pillorganizerwithalarm.jpg

Once you get this rhythm down, you'll find taking pills are no longer a source of stress. You might be amazed how much benefit you can get from simple steps when you're able to do them consistently.

Along with recovering faster than expected from surgery, my stylist told me my hair got much thicker after I started this habit!

[1] Brown M.T., Bussell J.K., "Medication adherence: WHO cares?" Mayo Clin. Proc., 2011;86:304-314, doi: 10.4065/mcp.2010.0575, Epub 2011 Mar 9.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.