Managing Prescriptions

Medications for mental illness can be a lifeline. Various types of medications are available that work in different ways to treat a range of symptoms.

Effective symptom management can reduce the need for hospitalization. Medications can help people enjoy a better quality of life with greater control over their recovery. These are unquestionably positive aspects of this treatment approach.

It is also undeniable that sometimes there are side effects to medication. As with symptoms, people experience side effects in individual ways. Some of these side effects can be difficult.

That does not mean that these medications should be abandoned.

Most side effects are temporary. Others are manageable by adjusting the dosage or using a different type of medication. Aside from the dosage amount, how a body responds to treatment can depend on many factors:

  • Body weight and metabolism
  • Genetics or family history
  • Other prescribed or over-the-counter medications
  • Physical activity level
  • Timing of dosing

Addressing these potential factors can improve how well the medication works, and help reduce any negative effects. This may take time and determination, but feeling better and managing the symptoms of mental illness are worth the effort it takes to help manage side effects.

Actively managing side effects is another way that you can advocate for your health. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Tip 1: Keep a list of your medications and dosages.
    Write down when you take them, how you take them (for example, with or without food), and how you’re feeling each day.
  • Tip 2: Talk to your treatment team about the medication.
    Be specific in how it is helping your mental health symptoms and include whether you’re experiencing new symptoms. Then discuss any side effects that you have noticed. Ask questions, especially if you’re unsure whether what you’re experiencing is a symptom of your diagnosis, or a side effect of the medication.
  • Tip 3: Create an action plan for managing side effects.
    Be sure this plan includes specific goals and targets. Work with your doctor’s suggestions as you decide what steps to take. Don’t adjust medication without the advice of your doctor. This can reduce its effectiveness and make it harder to find the best treatment approach for you.
  • Tip 4: Carry a medication card and keep a personal health record.
    You can use this card to keep other providers informed and help keep your pharmacy records on track.

Finding an effective treatment plan can take time and effort. You might sometimes feel discouraged, but don’t give up. It’s a learning process for you and your treatment team. Continue to advocate for your health as you work toward recovery.

Managing Prescriptions: Self-Check

No pressure — there are no right or wrong answers. This is just information to get you on the right track for your health goals.

  1. The single most important step I can take in managing my prescriptions is:
    Answer: All of the above. It’s important to understand why you have been prescribed the medication. It’s equally important to take medication as directed, and to keep a list of your medications handy. This can help avoid negative drug interactions.
  2. Including my providers' names and contact information on my personal health record can help my providers easily coordinate and communicate. True or False?
    Answer: True. One of the biggest barriers to coordinated care is poor communication between providers. Sharing this information with all of your providers can reduce this barrier.
  3. Managing my medications means...
    Answer: I communicate with my providers to ensure that side effects are managed and treatments are working. It’s very important for you to feel comfortable talking about your medications with your doctor. Always take medications as prescribed. Talk to your pharmacist or treatment team if you have questions. Do not abruptly stop taking your medications unless your doctor advises you to do so.
  4. Some medications have side effects, and not all side effects mean I will feel bad or make my illness worse. True or False?
    Answer: True. You are an individual and your response to medication can be very different from others. Not all side effects make you feel bad, and some medications might have no side effects at all.