psychiatrist instructing patient on safe medicaton usage

Tips for Taking Psychiatric Medication Safely

Like all medications, psychiatric prescriptions must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before doctors can prescribe them. Furthermore, a medical provider will only prescribe medication if they believe the benefits outweigh the risks. While these facts should be reassuring, it is important for patients to know how to say safe while taking any medication, particularly those that affect their emotional and behavioral health.

What To Do If You Have Side Effects

If you have a life-threatening reaction, call 9-1-1 immediately. Emergency reactions are rare, but they need immediate attention.

If you experience side effects that you cannot tolerate but do not require immediate medical attention, call the prescribing provider as soon as possible. While your doctor may want you to stop the medication or take a lower dose, it’s important for the prescribing provider to make that call. You should not change your dose yourself. Quitting some psychiatric medications cold-turkey can have serious consequences.

Many people have mild side effects when they begin new psychiatric medications. These may include dry mouth, nausea, and other mild irritations. Often, these issues subside overtime or can go away simply by changing the time of day in which you take the medicine. You can send your provider a message, call them, or wait until the next appointment to discuss the problem.

What If Your Symptoms Worsen

Of course, the goal of taking psychiatric medications is to see an improvement in your symptoms, even if it takes up to six weeks to see the full results. Unfortunately, some patients experience worsening symptoms instead, which may include thoughts of suicide.

If your symptoms get worse in any way, call your prescribing medical provider as soon as possible. If you have thoughts of suicide for any reason, get immediate care. You can go to the nearest emergency room or call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Beware of Interactions

As you know, some medications interact with others. Your doctor and pharmacist should both check to ensure you have no cross-reacting medications. However, some psychiatric medications also negatively react with other substances.

Most commonly, patients should not use alcohol at all while taking these medications. Even one drink can sometimes decrease the efficacy of the drug or cause serious medical complications. Another lesser-known cross-reaction is grapefruit with some types of medications.

Every medicine has different possible reactions with different substances. As such, you should carefully read any instructions that come with your prescriptions and ask the pharmacist or your doctor if you have any questions.

How to Store Your Medication Safely

If you have children or anyone else in your home who should not have access to your medication, take some time to think about where you will store it. Keeping it in a locked cupboard or very high spot may seem like an overreaction, but it is actually a prudent step. You can protect everyone by storing your medication properly.

Dispose of Medication Properly

If you and your doctor decide to make changes to your psychiatric medication, you may be left with extra pills from an old prescription. Throwing them in the garbage or down the drain can harm the environment. Furthermore, carelessly disposing of some controlled substances can lead them to end up in the wrong hands.

Instead, take them back to the pharmacy. Many pharmacies have receptacles for exactly this type of thing. You can deposit old prescriptions–no questions. If your pharmacy does not have this, simply hand it to the pharmacist and explain that you no longer take the medication.

If you have any questions about your medications, be sure to reach out to LifeStance Health.

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