Forgo alcohol – it can add to the side effects of most drugs, from analgesics to antidepressants. If you can't or don't want to give up alcohol altogether, set a limit of two drinks (including beer) per week.

Ask your doctor to prescribe the lowest beneficial dose of a drug and never take more than the prescribed amount. Many side effects are related to dosage. High doses of glucocorticoids such as prednisone, for example, can cause a wide range of side effects, including fluid retention, fragile bones and increased susceptibility to infections. Low doses, which are often effective in managing inflammatory arthritis, have a low risk of side effects.

Take the drug at the time designated by your doctor. Timing, in some cases, can influence a drug's side effects. For example, taking the osteoporosis drug alendronate when you get up in the morning, rather than before lying down at night, can cut the risk of esophageal ulcers. Timing can also influence some drugs' wanted effects. By taking a drug at the optimum time, you may actually be able to reduce the dose and, thus, the risk of side effects.

Never stop taking any medication without consulting your doctor. A drug can't help you if you don't take it, but abruptly stopping a drug can hurt you. The dosage of drugs such as prednisone, for example, must be tapered to avoid serious adverse effects.

Let your doctor know if you suspect a side effect. He can determine whether the side effect requires treatment or if discontinuing a drug or perhaps educing its dose is in order.

Leonard H. Calabrese, DO, Rheumatologist