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  • Shelly P., RN

Why medications matter...

Updated: Aug 27


Medications: Finding out what works

Finding the right medication for a mental health problem probably won’t be the first one prescribed but keep reading. It’s hard to find the right medication or right dose the first time but it’s worth it to keep trying and you can find the one that works. If you or a loved one is taking medication(s), it's hard to accept at first but it gets better. Remember the reasons why it's important to take your medication(s) for better mental health.


Changing medications: Changing medications can be touch and scary. Remember, changing current medication(s) means mental health can be under better control especially if the current medications isn’t working well anyway. You might have to take some time off school or work to adjust to medications and monitor side effects.


If you or a loved one is taking medication(s), the best way to know how things are going is to track it. Track moods and actions. When a mental health condition is under good control, you can do most things, if not everything on most or all days of the week. If it’s under decent control, these things could be done on most days. If not under good control, those things can be done only a few days a week or none at all. One good way to know how well medication(s) are working is to write down how you feel BEFORE, DURING and AFTER taking the medication(s) when it take its full effect which can be about 2 weeks or longer. Tracking your moods usually takes less than 15 seconds daily or you can do it every other day or once a week.


Side effects: Some people stop taking their medications because of side effects. If side effects occur, tell the health provider who ordered the medication(s) asap. If that provider isn’t available, ask for another provider who is covering for current provider or talk to another health provider who can provide medical advice.


The dose or medication may need to be changed. Stopping certain medications suddenly can be dangerous so follow-up with a health professional asap if side effects appear. A list of severe symptoms is usually given by pharmacy or provider which says for symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, severe dizziness, you might need to call an ambulance or go to emergency room so discuss this with your health provider and/or pharmacist before starting the medication(s).


What Are You Taking? It’s shocking how many people who are taking medications don’t know much about it. When taking medication(s), you should always know as much about it as possible. The medication name, dose, how often you're taking it and reason why you're taking it can be put on a cell phone, calendar, laptop and a copy can be given to another person you trust.



What to ask your health care provider about medications:

(for new medications or medication changes)


1. How long will it take for the medication(s) to have its full effect?


2. What is the success rate of this medication(s)?


3. What are the long-term effects in people?


4. What are the most common side effects of this medication(s)?


5. What symptoms should I call you for right away?


6. What happens if the medication(s) are working less or stops working? What other medications can be tried?


7. Do I need to reduce the medication(s) slowly or can I just stop without any problems?


8. Will this cause problems with my other medications? Talk about all medications including over-the-counter medications and vitamins


9. Are there any diet changes when I'm taking mental health medication(s)?


10. How far ahead of time should I start working on refills?


11. What lab work needs to be done while taking current medication(s)? (Such as labs for blood sugar, liver and/or kidney function? Other labs? - This is important)



Write down your answers. Take a picture, print out this list and take to appointments



Review your medications with your health provider at least once a year to see what's working, what's not and see if any medications changes are necessary




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