Pill reminders – Can they help you take your pills on time?

pill reminders

Pill reminder and pill-tracking app is the new mantra used by researchers to improve medication adherence in patients.  

A 2016 poll conducted by Popit Research Labs showed that around 40% of voters relied on their memory to track their pill usage while almost 60% used some form of external pill reminder. Also, multiple studies are suggesting the rise in medication non-adherence due to forgetfulness. There is clearly a need for an external source to keep track of one’s medication usage.

pill reminders

Popit Research Labs, 2016

Do pill reminders work?

With the rise in pill reminder solutions, the first question that pops into your mind is – Do pill reminders actually help? Can they help you take your medications on time? 

According to a randomised clinical trial done in 2018, to check the impact of medication reminder apps to improve medication adherence in a Coronary Heart Disease study, adherence improvement for app users seemed to be ~7.2%. It was concluded that patients who used medication reminder apps had better medication adherence compared to those with usual care.

A study by Cochrane on interventions for medication adherence in the elderly concluded that behavioural and educational interventions along with the aid of simple strategies such as using pill reminders may lead to greater satisfaction in medication management in the elderly.

In a poll conducted by Popit, almost 50% of the users confirmed they have some kind of reminders for pills and they find these useful in tracking their pills for birth control. In a clinical pilot together with a leading university hospital, their pill reminder solution was able to reduce missed pills by over 80% and help build a solid routine around pill-taking.

pill reminders

Popit Research Labs, 2016

Which is the most effective pill reminder?

With the internet being flooded with various pill reminders apps and medication trackers, how do you know if these are effective or not?  Does it really make sense to invest in one? If yes, then which one?

Pill dispensers are cheap, but using a pill dispenser is more or less relying on your memory. On the other hand, smartphone alarms are free, but most people end up ignoring these alarms as constant notifications can get annoying after a while.

smart sensing device could be another option that you can rely on. This is the world’s first and only tracker for a pill blister that comes with built-in sensors. It can sense when you pop a pill off the blister and notifies you only when you miss a pill. Which means, if you take the pill, you don’t get the daily annoying reminders. Also, there is no manual input needed to keep a track of your pill usage. 

We compiled a comparison chart so you can evaluate which solution is best for you.

pill reminders

Pill Reminders

How do pill reminders help?

Medication cannot work as intended if it is not taken as prescribed. Consistency and taking pills according to guidance play a key role in any treatment.

Some of the cases where pill reminders have proven to be beneficial include:

1. Avoiding unwanted pregnancy 

pill reminders

The risk of pregnancy with a typical birth control pill use is 9% and the pill is 99% efficient only when used perfectly.

By perfect use, it means you have to take the pill every day without fail. You must also take it at the same time day after day. In a recent survey conducted by Popit, more than 1 in 12 women on the pill may have experienced an unintended pregnancy due to missing a pill.

2. Medication adherence in chronic health conditions

Medication non-adherence in chronic health conditions is a recognized public health problem. According to a study conducted by NCBI on unintentional non-adherence of prescribed medication, more than 60% of the test group forgot to take their pills on time.

3. Improved parental or caregiver medication adherence 

To keep a track of someone’s medication is more challenging than managing one’s own treatment. You can easily manage this when you have an app that can notify you whenever they miss their pills.

So, do you need one?

Pill Reminders

Evolution of pill reminders

From the humble reminders such as markings on a calendar to smart sensing devices, pill reminders have evolved over the years. This also confirms the need for an external source to track pill usage apart from relying on one’s memory. Multiple studies are also supporting this claim saying it could be one of the ways to improve adherence in patients.

Pill reminder solutions are usually a one time purchase and cost less than a good pair of sneakers. They are the most reliable alternative to ensuring you take your medicines on time and stay on track. These can also be a thoughtful gift for your loved ones. For, after all, there is no greater gift that you can give or receive than to stay healthy or investing in the good health of your loved ones. 

(In a clinical pilot – DOI: 10.15761/COGRM.1000217, conducted by a team of doctor’s including Henna Kärkkäinen, MD, Ph.D, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Heikki Matero Ph.M, Janne Sahlman MD, Ph.D at the Kuopio University Hospital, it was concluded that an on-demand reminder system increases adherence of birth control pill users. More details regarding this study can be found here. )

What Is An Anxiety Attack

what is an anxiety attack

Everyone experiences anxiety (worry over a potential future event or its outcome) in some form or another. Anxiety, however, takes different forms, and people cope with various magnitudes of anxiety, ranging from normal experiences to anxiety disorders. When anxiety reaches a certain degree, symptoms of anxiety become so extreme that anxiety turns into an acute panic attack. By understanding the difference between generalized anxiety and these intense occurrences, you can answer the question, “What is an anxiety attack?”

What Is an Anxiety Attack?

The term “anxiety attack” is often used in place of the more clinical term “panic attack.” A panic (anxiety) attack occurs when anxiety becomes so intense it triggers an acute physical and emotional event. Panic attacks are so physically intense that sufferers often end up in the emergency room describing symptoms typically associated with a heart attack.

How to Recognize a Panic Attack: Signs and Symptoms

Individuals who have a full-blown panic attack will experience four or more signs or symptoms intensely. Other individuals suffer from what is referred to as “limited-symptom panic attacks.” These individuals experience fewer than four of the following physical and emotional symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

  • Pounding heart, accelerated heart rate or palpitations
  • Chest pain, discomfort or feelings of pressure
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Choking sensation or feeling of throat closing
  • Shortness of breath or sensation of being smothered
  • Hyperventilation
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, cramping or feeling of a knot in the stomach
  • Feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Numbness or tingling (paresthesia)

Emotional Symptoms

  • De-realization (feeling of unreality described as a dream-like state)
  • Depersonalization (feeling detached from oneself, emotions or feeling separate from reality)
  • A sense of impending doom, gloom and danger
  • Overwhelming fear
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying
  • Urgency to escape

As displayed by this exhaustive list of signs and symptoms, panic attacks are extremely frightening events and are very different from elevated feelings of anxiety or general anxiety.

Panic attacks differ from general feelings of anxiety due to their intense nature and relatively short duration; attacks usually last for only about ten minutes. Individuals who suffer from panic attacks experience intense physical and emotional symptoms, which often lead them to believe they are dying. Intensely frightening, panic attacks heighten sensations of general anxiety, as sufferers fear triggering and going through another episode.

What Causes a Panic Attack?

Panic attacks often coincide with situations that cause emotional distress, such as a job interview, a public speaking event, a divorce or the loss of a loved one. Panic attacks, however, do not always occur during stressful or emotional moments; they sometimes occur seemingly out of the blue, when sufferers feel calm and at ease.

Other conditions can also trigger panic attacks, such as:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse
  • Excessive Stimulant Use
  • Medication Withdrawal

Coping with Stress and Reducing Incidents

Thankfully, there are several strategies for coping with anxiety and reducing the frequency of and/or preventing panic and anxiety attacks. Panic attacks are treated with a combination of medication, therapy and additional self-help strategies (such as meditation and exercise).

By sticking with a regular plan and taking all medications as prescribed, patients overcome anxiety and can return to living normal lives.

 

(In a clinical pilot – DOI: 10.15761/COGRM.1000217, conducted by a team of doctor’s including Henna Kärkkäinen, MD, Ph.D, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Heikki Matero Ph.M, Janne Sahlman MD, Ph.D at the Kuopio University Hospital, it was concluded that an on-demand reminder system increases adherence of birth control pill users. More details regarding this study can be found here. )

What Is An Anxiety Disorder?

what is an anxiety disorder

As humans, we evolved to experience fear and anxiety during dangerous, potentially life-threatening situations. Thanks to fear, people (and other animals) instinctively know to react with a fight or flight response to potential dangers, like grizzly bears, cliff precipices, burning buildings and tornados. Experiencing anxiety when faced with a situation which could truly be dangerous is completely normal, a healthy response.

What Is an Anxiety Disorder? The Difference Between Normal Anxiety and Anxiety Disorder

Since anxiety is an evolutionary function designed to keep people safe, everyone experiences it throughout the normal course of life’s events. Individuals can experience anxiety in safe situations, too.

For example, one might feel anxiety on the first day of school, when trying a new activity or before going on a blind date, but this anxiety is usually considered normal. We wrote a separate article about what is an anxiety attack.

So, what is an anxiety disorder? When does normal anxiety become so extreme it is considered a disorder?

Anxiety is considered a disorder when the fear, stress or anxiety experienced:

  • is not proportionate to the situation.
  • is inappropriate considering the individual’s age.
  • prevents the individual from participating normally in everyday life, work or other activities.

When anxiety hinders a person from enjoying and experiencing life, in what is considered a normal way, the response is considered an anxiety disorder.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

  • Agoraphobia – Fear of being in a situation where help might not be available or escape might be difficult or embarrassing. Individuals with agoraphobia sometimes fear public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, leaving home alone and/or being in a crowd.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Excessive or persistent worry that interferes with everyday life.
  • Panic Disorder – Characterized by intermittent anxiety attacks, which are a combination of extreme emotional and physical anxiety symptoms. Individuals suffering from panic attacks often visit the emergency room with extreme physical symptoms similar to those experienced during a heart attack.
  • Phobias – The extreme, irrational fear of any specific thing or situation which hinders normal life.
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder – Extreme fear of losing or being separated from close family or friends.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) – Experiencing extreme discomfort and fear in social situations.

Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment

Individuals with an anxiety disorder experience an extreme emotional response, generally considered to be out of proportion to the situation. In addition to emotional distress, patients also often suffer from physical symptoms such as restlessness and insomnia, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, blushing, muscle tension, headaches, shortness of breath and symptoms which mimic those of a heart attack.

Individuals with anxiety disorder typically find effective treatment with a combination of medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy and/or cognitive behavior therapy). When patients – being treated with medication, therapy or a combination of the two – commit to a consistent treatment regimen, they experience the best results.

Medication for an anxiety disorder should be taken on a regular schedule, with patients taking care not to miss any doses, following directions as their doctors prescribe and taking medication around the same time each day. For staying on track with pills there are many tools available, from the smartphone alarm clock to a smart pill tracker.

By working closing with their doctors and therapists and committing to their treatment plans, patients with anxiety disorders can find relief and successfully return to experiencing everyday life free from the pressures of extreme anxiety.

How To Deal With Anxiety – Effective Strategies for a Healthy, Happy Life

how to deal with anxiety

Individuals living with severe anxiety do not have to let their anxiety disorders control their lives or live in fear of triggers and panic attacks. They can learn how to deal with anxiety and break free by working with a doctor and/or therapist and practicing at-home strategies for stress management. Talk with your healthcare professional about medical treatment for anxiety and steps to improve your everyday life.

How to Deal with Anxiety: Professional Treatment and Do It Yourself Coping Strategies

Professional Treatment

Patients suffering from anxiety disorders usually find the most success with a combination of medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy or cognitive behavior therapy).

DIY Strategies for Coping

  • Recognize Triggers – Learn to recognize anxiety triggers. Know what happens when you have an anxiety attack or if you are suffering from an anxiety disorder.  Then, you can avoid them or at least better control how you encounter them.
  • Practice – Safely expose yourself to triggers repeatedly, until they no longer have the same effect. Afraid of elevators? Ride one, up and down, until you focus on doing something else, rather than your fear of the elevator.
  • Balanced Diet – Eat a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to minimize inflammation and maximize nutrition. Fueling your body with unhealthy fats, processed carbohydrates, sugar and chemicals is like trying to run a car on maple syrup; it fill the tank, but it won’t make the wheels turn.
  • Exercise – Breaking a sweat at the gym, on the trail or in a swimming pool triggers the release of feel-good hormones, inducing happiness, confidence and balancing mood (not to mention exercise’s countless other health benefits).
  • Meditation – Practice mindfulness meditation to train your brain to use its powers for good, rather than anxiety.
  • Regular Sleep – Getting regular good quality sleep will regulate your body’s natural cycles, metabolism, hormones and mood. Practice impeccable sleep hygiene with a routine bedtime and wake up time. Even on the weekends, try not to vary your sleep cycle more than about thirty minutes.
  • Limit Alcohol and Caffeine – A depressive and stimulant, respectively, alcohol and caffeine disrupt your body’s natural chemistry. Avoid drinking excessive amounts of either. Limit yourself to one or two cups of coffee in the morning and drink alcohol sparingly (if at all).
  • Breathing/Counting Exercises – Learn to calm yourself during moments of stress. Breath deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through pursed lips while counting backwards from ten. Repeat until you sense your anxiety receding.
  • Support a Good Cause – Devoting time to a cause you care about will release positive feelings and also help you regain a sense of control. Seeing the major impact of small deeds will empower you to continue making a positive difference in the world.

Settle into a Routine for Successful Anxiety Management

When it comes to managing an anxiety disorder, balance and routine are essential. If you cultivate a healthy lifestyle, listen to your health care team, take medications as prescribed, and cultivate best practices on how to take your anxiety medication, you will be less likely to experience heightened anxiety. Instead, you will learn how to deal with anxiety or feelings of being overwhelmed or panic attacks when life does throw you the occasional curve ball.

When working with a doctor, therapist or both to manage anxiety, you should always talk with your healthcare providers before making any changes to your medications, diet or lifestyle.

Starting Anxiety Medication? Here’s What to Expect

starting anxiety medication

Starting an anxiety medication should not cause a patient more anxiety. Knowing what is an anxiety attack and what is an anxiety disorder and what to expect when starting anxiety medication, however, can make the process less intimidating and help patients achieve the best possible treatment outcomes.

7 Considerations When Starting Anxiety Medication

  1. Do not get discouraged if you don’t get the results you want right away. Some anxiety medications can take up to eight weeks before a patient really begins to see results. Be patient and stay in touch with your healthcare providers until you achieve positive results.
  2. Every person’s body metabolizes medicine differently. As a result, patient outcomes on various anxiety medications vary. Sometimes it takes trying several different types of medications or combinations of medications, in addition to therapy, before a patient experiences the desired treatment outcome.
  3. Different anxiety medications come with different side effects. Potential side effects of anxiety medications include nausea, restlessness, nervousness, decreased libido, insomnia, drowsiness, weight fluctuations, dry mouth, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, confusion and even worsened anxiety. Side effects depend on the type of anxiety medication your doctor prescribes. Before starting a new medication, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist about potential side effects and what you should do if you notice any unusual changes after beginning your new medication.
  4. Side effects from certain anxiety medications might force you to limit other activities. Talk to your doctor about medication side effects. Think about whether or not you need to drive or operate equipment for work and how your lifestyle might change as a result of potential side effects.
  5. You should also ask your doctor and pharmacist about potential drug reactions or interactions with other medications or supplements you take. Bring a complete list of everything you use from other prescriptions and over the counter medications to vitamins and natural supplements.
  6. One serious side effect of anxiety medications is that they can sometimes worsen anxiety symptoms, doing the opposite of what is intended. When starting a new medication be particularly vigilant about your feelings. Tell a trusted friend or relative about your new treatment, and ask that he or she also pay close attention to your behavior during the first few weeks.
  7. Patients can become resistant to anxiety medications, meaning a dosage increase might be necessary after using a particular medication for a long period of time. Even if you have been feeling well, it’s important to stay in contact with your doctor and check in with your own feelings regularly, too.
  8. When starting an anxiety medication, you should have an open conversation with your doctor about the potential for addiction. Some anxiety medications are considered highly addictive. Be honest with your doctor, if you have a history or family history of substance abuse.
  9. Although some individuals might remain on anxiety medication for a long time, these medicines are most effective when used as short-term treatment tools. Patients experience the most desirable results when participating in a variety of treatments including medication, psychotherapy, self-help and personal care strategies.

When starting any new medication, it is extremely important to take the medication exactly as your doctor prescribes. Following your prescription instructions and being sure never to miss a dose will ensure your new medication has the best chance of working as intended. Also, here are some best practices to learn how to take anxiety disorder medication.

How To Take Anxiety Disorder Medication

how to take anxiety disorder medication

Anxiety disorders, the most common mental illness in the United States, affect roughly 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Before starting a new prescription, ask your doctor how to take anxiety disorder medication to achieve the best possible outcome. With so many sufferers, several types of medications are now available to combat anxiety and depression. These medications include:

  • benzodiazepines
  • buspirone
  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • tricyclics
  • beta-blockers
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

Beta-blockers like metoprolol (Lopressor) which are designed to treat high blood pressure also help to control the symptoms of anxiety and are occasionally prescribed ‘off-label’ for this purpose. However, Lopressor side effects are common and some can be serious, in addition, in certain people, anxiety may actually be exacerbated.

Each medication works in a different way, and doctors sometimes prescribe patients one or a combination of anti-anxiety medications in order to most effectively control symptoms of various anxiety disorders.

How to Take Anxiety Disorder Medication: 5 Best Practices

  1. Be Patient – Depending on the type of anti-anxiety, antidepressant or sedative your doctor prescribes, it could take up to eight weeks before you feel its effects. Even after your medication kicks in, you might need to try a different prescription or dose. Be patient while working with your doctor to find the right medications to ease your anxiety.
  2. Expect Some Side Effects – You probably won’t experience every side effect on each medication’s long list of potentials, but you will likely have some. Certain side effects clear up after the first couple of weeks of taking a new medication, but others might persist. If experience intolerable side effects that are detrimental to the quality of your life, talk with your doctor about trying a different medication.
  3. Avoid Alcohol – Do not mix alcohol with anxiety medication. Alcohol, a depressant, not only exacerbates anxiety, it can also be extremely dangerous when mixed with anxiety medications. Drinking alcohol while on antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications can cause several different complications, including extreme drowsiness, slowed heart rate, loss of consciousness and even death.
  4. Ask When to Take Medication – Be sure to ask your doctor about the best time of day to take your medication and how it should be used. Certain medications (especially sedatives) cause severe drowsiness and hinder cognitive function. These are best taken before bed for a restful night’s sleep. Other medications might be best taken in the morning, with or without food. While still, other prescriptions might be best taken as needed to relax you during an upcoming stressful event. Talk with your doctor about your prescription and whether or not there are any recommendations to increase its effectiveness.
  5. Follow Your Doctor’s Orders – Starting a medication routine to help relieve anxiety is a big step and requires a commitment to adhere to your doctor’s instruction. For best results, take your prescription exactly as prescribed without missing a dose. Due to their nature, some anti-anxiety medications must be started slowly (gradually stepping up in dosage) and stopped progressively (gradually reducing dosage). Before making any changes to your medication or the way you take it, ask for your doctor’s advice.

You and your doctor know your body and anxiety disorder best, and you should always take your anxiety disorder medications exactly as prescribed. It is important to always discuss any changes in your medication routine with your doctor before making them. Ask your doctor before you decide to start, stop or even change the time of day when you take a prescription. If you’re starting anxiety medication, here’s what to expect.