Sometimes in your mental health journey, you may need medication to help you for a wide array of reasons. If you have never taken anything besides aspirin or cold medicine, you may not know what to expect when being prescribed medication. It is important to understand what happens when you are given medication so you are not left in the dark about this common, and often misunderstood, part of treatment.
Before You Are Given A Prescription
Before you even are given a prescription at all, it first must be determined that you need medication. A psychiatrist is a person who will decide if you need medicine or not. They are in the mental health field, hold a medical degree, and are permitted to prescribe medicine and perform medical procedures. Most likely, they will perform a few tests and ask about any allergies you may have.
A therapist may recommend certain medications to try, but ultimately it’s only a psychiatrist that can give you them. After data has been collected, your psychiatrist will research the best medicine to manage your symptoms. Remember, your consent is still key, and if you do not want medication, you do not have to get them. Afterward, your prescription will be sent to a pharmacy where you can pick them up.
The Adjustment Period
Medicine for mental health disorders does not instantly remove a symptom. Your body first must get used to the medication, and you can expect about two weeks to notice any differences in your body and mood. It is important to follow any instructions your psychiatrist gives you. For example, be sure to take the correct dosage amount. If it is something to take daily, try and take them at the same time each day. Some medicine requires you to take them with food and if you do not, they can make you feel ill.
Stick with your medication regimen and eventually, you will see results. If you do not notice any results at all after two weeks or you feel sick from taking the medicine, speak with your psychiatrist right away and they will let you know what do to next. Sometimes after you have been taking your medicine for a while, you may need your medication adjusted to either increase the dosage or pair it with another kind of medication.
Every medication that exists, even for something as common as aspirin, can and does have side effects you may experience. Every person’s body is different, so it often will react in different ways when interacting with medication. Your psychiatrist will explain the side effects you may experience when taking your medication as well as ways to lessen the effects. Eventually, your body may get used to your medication and the side effects may fade after some time. Some common side effects found in psychiatric drugs are:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry Mouth
Of course, different drugs have different side effects, but these are by far the most common ones you may experience. When you first start taking your medicine, be sure to take it easy until you understand fully how your body reacts to the medication.
Also, be aware that are some things that you cannot consume while taking psychiatric drugs. One big thing is grapefruit, as it nullifies medication. Drinking alcohol and using some substances can also react strongly to your medication and can have serious consequences, even death. Some ingredients in cold medicines also interact negatively with psychiatric medication. Be sure to talk to your psychiatrist for a full list of things you should avoid should you being a medication regimen.
Types of Medication
There are several types of medications that exist for mental health disorders, but they can be broken down into these few categories.
- Antidepressants – These medications are used to treat depression.
- Antipsychotics – These medications are used to treat psychosis, and can often help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, as well as other types of disorders.
- Benzodiazepines – These medications are used to treat anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and some types of severe phobias.
- Mood Stabilizers – Often used in conjunction with other medications to help stabilize mood and control mood swings. Mostly these are used for mood disorders, like bipolar disorder, but are also used to help treat depression.
- Stimulants – These medications are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
When You No Longer Need Medication
Many mental health disorders are chronic conditions, which may persist for years or even through most of your life. Medication may become a normal part of your daily routine. Although, you may have temporary conditions and might eventually no longer need medication to help you. If this is the case, your psychiatrist will walk you through how to safely wean yourself off your medication.
Never stop taking your medication outright. This will cause withdrawal symptoms that can range in severity. It is also a major shock to your body which has gotten used to your medications. For this reason, you wean off the drugs slowly over some time. You may be asked to take half doses for a week, then move to quarter doses, slowly decreasing how much you take to give your body time to adjust without them. It can be a long process, but it is very important to follow the instructions you are given, which will make sure you have no troubles throughout the process.
Sometimes when you get help, you realize that it might not be enough. Sometimes you may need medications to help you alongside the other treatments you are receiving. If that is the case, you can trust that our staff at Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, know how to help you.
We have a program to help you manage your medications and teach you how to stay safe through the process. Medication can feel scary, but education and compassionate people can take the fear out of this intimidating, but necessary part of your unique treatment plan.
If you or someone you love feel that you may need medication to help manage symptoms or assist you in your recovery journey, call (949) 688-6759 today to speak with one of our staff on duty for the next step to take. You don’t have to take this journey by yourself.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.