How can I get information about medications?
Many mental health consumers, as well as concerned family and friends, seek information to help them better understand the benefits of prescribed medications, potential side effects, and to help them in talking with their doctor about such matters.
Mental Health America encourages consumers to talk with their doctor regarding any medication-related questions or concerns and to inform him or her about all the medications being taken so that negative drug interactions can be avoided.
In addition to talking with their doctor, many consumers and their family members want to consult other information sources.
When you're feeling overwhelmed or confused, it's understandable that you might want to let others make medication decisions for you. But it's becoming clearer to researchers, providers and mental health consumers themselves that being actively involved in your treatment can make a real difference in your recovery. Talking honestly with your doctor is a big part of that process. If you discuss your concerns and learn about your options, you are much more likely to come up with a plan that works well for you and for the life you want to create.
The following tips can help you decide about taking a medication:
- Get information. Ask your provider how the medication is supposed to help with your specific concerns. Also find out about any possible side effects. You might consider taking notes, since it can be hard to remember a lot of information, especially when you aren't feeling well. You also might ask a friend or relative to go with you for emotional support and to help keep track of important information. Use MHA's Antipsychotic Medication Checklist to help with such discussions.
- Talk with others with similar experiences. Self-help groups and peer specialists-people with mental health conditions who are trained to help-can provide great first-hand information. Local Mental Health America affiliate offices, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder are good sources for this kind of support. Remember that every person is different, but you can learn from the experiences of others.
- Think about your priorities and goals. Is relief from symptoms extremely important? If not, maybe you're willing to live with some symptoms to avoid side effects. What are your main life goals? How might medication help?
- Sometimes the only way to know if a medication is right for you is to try it. You may find that it helps you feel much better. If not, you can decide to stop later.
What should I ask about the medications that are prescribed for me?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you ask the following questions:
- What is the name of the medication and what is it supposed to do?
- How and when do I take it, and when do I stop taking it?
- What foods, drinks or other medications should I avoid while taking this medication?
- Should it be taken with food or on an empty stomach?
- Is it safe to drink alcohol while on this medication?
- What are the side effects, and what should I do if they occur?
- Is a Patient Package Insert for the medication available?
How can I tell if my medication is working?
Some people get relief from their symptoms immediately, others after a few days or weeks; for others, it may take even longer. After a short time on the medication, it's important to share with your doctor or therapist how you are doing with the treatment. Together, you may need to find the right amount of medicine or combination of medicines.
It's especially important to tell your doctor about any side effects you're having from the medication. You may be able to make some changes in dosage or the time of day you take the medication to lessen or get rid of the side effects. There are also newer medications that have fewer side effects than older drugs, making it easier for people to stay on them. If after an extended period of time on a medication you are still not experiencing progress, you may need to talk with your doctor about trying another medication. Consult your doctor before making any changes in your medication.
How long you take medication really depends on your particular needs. Some people are able to discontinue medication when their symptoms have fully subsided and they have reached their treatment goals. Others may need to remain on medication for longer periods of time as part of a long-term recovery plan.
To talk with a knowledgeable professional, you can consult the following resources:
- Your local pharmacist is a valuable resource to answer medication-related questions. Pharmacies are required to provide written information about prescriptions they are dispensing.
- Pharmaceutical companies have staff that can respond to questions from the general public. View pharmaceutical company medical information telephone numbers below.
- In addition, many states have Drug Information Centers operated by area hospitals. Contact your local Mental Health America affiliate to find one in your area.
For written information, you can consult the following resources:
- Anxiety Disorders Association of America
- Attention Deficit Disorder Association
- Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
- NARSAD:The Mental Health Research Association (Downloadable booklet "Managing the Side Effects of Antipsychotic Medications" available once you log in or register)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH's detailed booklet describes mental disorders and the medications for treating them — includes a comprehensive list of medications)
- National Women's Health Resource Center (pdf; Medication chart near end of report)
- Obsessive Compulsive Foundation (Medication information links in column on lower right side of page)
- National Library of Medicine's Medline Plus
*Contact Information for Major Pharmaceutical Companies
*Disclaimer: Mental Health America may provide contact information to other third party organizations. These contact listings are provided for convenience of reference only and are not intended as an endorsement by Mental Health America of the organization or a warranty of any type regarding the organization or any services or products the third party organization may provide