Medication Management – The Basics

Medication does not always work for every patient. Many do, however, make progress with prescribed medication. Some patients may only need short-term medication for acute situations, while others may take medication for the rest of their lives.

Whatever the timeline, getting the most benefits out of medication requires medication management. Medication management helps ensure that medication is safe and effective for a patient.

When a patient and doctor manage medication for a physical condition, the patient often only follows up if their situation worsens or if their symptoms do not go away. With psychiatric medications, patient and doctor consult as long as the patient is on the medication.

Doctors prescribe dosages based on standard recommendations for most patients. The patient starts her course of medication, then comes in for another appointment to discuss her experience with the medication. Based on this discussion, the doctor may adjust the patient’s dosages or even change medications if she experiences adverse side effects. Medication management is also necessary the entire time a patient is on a medication because patients’ bodies can adjust to these medications over time. Some medications also have a higher risk for causing addiction.

The Benefits of Medication for Mental Illness

Choosing to go on medication is a deeply personal matter, and one you should discuss in detail with your doctor. Dispelling myths around psychiatric medication, however, is an important first step so that you can go in with an open mind.

Misconceptions about Psychiatric Meds

Many think that if they go on psychiatric medications, they must be a really bad case, or even “crazy.” There is a lot of stigma around these medications. They are, however, quite common, and do not indicate that someone’s case is necessarily severe.

Another misconception is that psychiatric medication takes away your personality or energy, turning you into a zombie of sorts. Medication management ensures that patients do not experience severe symptoms; every patient, too, has a different experience with any given medication.

Mental Health Disorders Helped by Medication

There are a wide range of mental health disorders that are helped by medication, typically in tandem with some form of therapy. Medication can be particularly effective when therapy exposes a patient to stressors, such as in the treatment of OCD.

When chemical imbalances are present, as in some cases of depression, for example, medication can by the primary treatment for the patient. Therapy then functions as a supplementary therapy to medication.

The Pros and the Cons 

As you discuss the option of getting on medication with your psychiatrist, she may walk you through some of the pros and cons. This is important to do so that you have all the information you need to make the best decision for yourself.

The Pros of Getting on Medication:

  • May quicken recovery or healing
  • Treats physical triggers of mental health issues
  • Can make therapies such as exposure therapy easier for a patient
  • Can allow patients to have more productive daily lives

The Cons of Getting on Medication:

  • Can lead to addiction in some cases
  • Can have side effects
  • Must be managed for the duration
  • Comes with stigmas and negative stereotypes

Common Psychiatric Medications

Psychiatric medications were an important turning point in the treatment of mental health issues. Prior to their appearance in the end of the 1800s, doctors had needed to restrain patients who were a danger to themselves or others. Psychiatric medications are no longer just about managing extreme cases; in fact, psychiatric medications can help with almost any mental health issue.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are by far the medication prescribed the most in the U.S. In addition to assuaging the symptoms of depression, antidepressants can also treat ADHD and anxiety. Antidepressants your doctor may prescribe can include:

  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)

Anti-Anxiety Medications

As indicated by their name, these medications treat anxiety issues, including GAD and panic attacks. They can be very effective in management of acute scenarios, helping patients get through difficult patches, and can also work for chronic conditions.

Antipsychotics

While their name may be intimidating, antipsychotics actually help with a wide range of illnesses, including cases of severe depression, GAD, PTSD, and OCD. Common antipsychotics include:

  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Lurasidone (Latuda)

Stimulants

While it surprises many, stimulants are very effective at treating those with ADHD. They also work we for those with binge eating disorders. Stimulants used for mental health include:

  • Adderall
  • Methylphenidate
  • Lisdexamfetamine
  • Dextroamphetamine

Medication Management

Medication management is an essential part of a patient’s psychiatric healthcare plan. In this process, the patient and doctor work closely together to ensure that a medication is benefiting the patient. The patient also must adhere to all doctor recommendations and dosages.

Some patients may feel the need to take a bit more medication or self-dose; these are very dangerous things to do. Being safe is the main priority when it comes to psychiatric medications.

Medication management also involves watching for side effects or the return of symptoms. Sometimes a patient may adjust to a dosage or medication, and symptoms can ease back in. A doctor knowing this can make the necessary adjustments. Management is also very important with medications that have a higher risk of addiction.