Taking medications can be the pits. Will they work? Do the side effects render people bed-ridden? Are the pills horse pills, too big to swallow? Do I turn into a pumpkin when I forget to take my meds? Understanding that few people like taking pills, here are some hints about keeping up with your medications.
1. You start a new tablet, and it doesn’t work. Unfortunately many meds, especially psychiatric medications, don’t work right away. This can be like having a headache and waiting two to six weeks for the pain killer to take effect. Hang in there. Give it time. Talk to your doctor about coping with your symptoms while you wait for it to take effect. This can include extra doctor’s visits, short-term medication for intolerable symptoms, brief weekly psychotherapy, coming up with a schedule to keep you going, or hospitalization if things are really bad.
2. You start a new med and have side effects. Many medications cause side effects. Some are persistent, and others improve with time. For example, many antidepressants can cause anxiety and upset stomach when you first start them. This lasts a few days, a week at most, until your body adjusts to the medication. Give it time. However, if the side effects are severe, talk to your doctor right away.
3. You’re on this new medication but are tempted to party with your friends. Consider holding off. The medication is more likely to work if you avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. People also have a tendency to skip doses when they’re using or drinking, making it even less effective.
4. I’ve been on this medication a month and feel no difference. If there’s no improvement in four weeks, your doctor might switch to a different drug. Alternatively, if the med’s helped a little, they might add a second drug. This second method is called augmentation and can help “jump-start” a pill into working.
5. The drug is working but the side effects are bad. In this case, consider asking your provider to back off on the dose. Sometimes, by lowering the dose, you maintain the good stuff while getting rid of the bad stuff. If it’s an antipsychotic, your doctor might add an additional medication instead to help with the side effects.
6. I hate this medication and want to stop it right away. Pills can be problematic, and it’s understandable that you want off it. Your best bet is to call your doctor and ask for recommendations. They might prefer you stop it gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, your provider may have some great ideas to make the medication more doable, like changing the schedule, lowering the dose, changing to a different formulation (smaller pill), or switching to a similar medication with fewer side effects.
That’s medication advice in a nutshell. Thanks for reading!