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Medications Are A Bitter Pill Of the Workplace

If you tuned into MSNBC's Morning Joe last week, you might have caught Tom Brokaw acting a little bit...well, a little bit drunk. Let's go to the videotape, because we can!

It turns out Brokaw wasn't high on life or anything else. No, he had made a basic mistake while taking his morning medications. Instead of taking an aspirin, he took a sleeping pill. Then he went to work, which just happens to be on national television.

Brokaw called his medicinal mix-up a cautionary tale. I call it a bitter pill of the workplace. We feel for you, Tom, because many an average employee has messed up while taking his or her medicines on the way to work. If only we could put a price tag on all of the lost productivity, then we'd probably be able to pay off our national debt.

There are a lot of ways to arrive at a medicinal mix-up. Like Brokaw, you might take the wrong pill. You meant to take one pill, but took a Viagra instead. Ooops! I guess it's safe to say you'll be late for work today.

Maybe you take your medication in the immediate midst of your morning stupor, then wonder 30 minutes later if you took your medicine. Did I, or didn't I? You don't use a pill box so you can't remember, and now you're standing there staring at the prescription bottle, wondering what to do. Do I take it again, or not? Maybe you do take it again, only to realize as the medicine kicks in that, yes indeed-ee, you've taken it already. Now you get to spend the rest of the day getting a lift higher than President Obama got in Florida over the weekend.

Perhaps your medications are cohabitating with those of your significant other in a cabinet or on top of the refrigerator. Man, all those bottles can look the same bathed in the light of the nightlight, can't they? You meant to take two Ibuprofen tablets but instead took two Oxycodone pills, the prescription painkiller your loved one is taking temporarily following a surgical procedure. Boom goes the dynamite! I hope you don't operate heavy machinery on the job.

You might be halfway to work when you realize you forgot to take your medicine, and you can't get through your day without it. So you turn around and pull up quick to retrieve it. I hope you don't commute by bus, train or carpool van.

The thing is, these simple medicinal mix-ups can happen to any working adult, no matter our age, because we all need prescription medications on occasion or always if we're managing some sort of permanent medical condition. But to quote the philosopher P!nk, instead of making me better, you're making me ill. And potentially less productive at work, or sick.

Admitting a medicinal mix-up can be very embarrassing for employees, who may not want to reveal to their co-workers that they (1) made a dumb mistake; and (2) rely on prescription medications, even if only temporarily. So they either call in sick, or come to work anyway. What can be done about this workplace problem? There's always the traditional pill box, just take more care to load it correctly if you take multiple medications. Store your medications where you can see them first thing in the morning (or evening, depending on when you take them). You might also get in the habit of putting a check on a calendar as soon as you take your medications so you don't have any "did I, or didn't I?" moments.

There are also dozens of links to handy online tips about how to take your medicine. These links are worth reading, because we don't have Mary Poppins to remind us. In every job there is an element of fun, find the fun, and snap! The job's a game! And every task you take becomes a piece of cake! Unless you take an Ambien by mistake.

Thanks to Tom Brokaw for slurring his way to national awareness regarding what may well be an under-diagnosed and all-too-common workplace safety issue. I think we'll all sleep a little bit better now.


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