Medication in mental health

Understanding psychiatric medication

While therapeutic and counselling services may be the right treatment for some, for many medication is the best option for recovery.

Most psychiatric medication falls with one of four categories - antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilisers or sleeping pills.

Not all medications can be prescribed by your GP, for some you would need to be referred to a specialist who can then provide better treatment and medication options.

It’s important that you are involved in your treatment decisions, understanding the side effects and knowing the facts will help you make an informed decision. Some side effects that would be beneficial to consider before taking include; knowing why you’ve been prescribed the medication, what alternative treatments are available, whether the drug is addictive, are there any risks involved, the dosage you should take including how long for, if the drug has any different names and knowing the side effects. It’s recommended to read the leaflet that comes with the medication when you first get it, including the ingredients to make sure that it is right for you.


Some medication isn’t for everyone


If you experience any side effects or you feel your mental health has deteriorated since starting your medication then it’s important to talk to your doctor about any of the side effects you’re experiencing. Some medications take a while to fully be in your system and others are much quicker. Your doctor should explain to you whether the side effects should wear down after a certain time as some medications side effects become less intense once your body has adjusted to the drug.

However, it’s also common that the first medication you try isn’t the right one, not all medications work the same way for everyone, so sometimes it’s a case of trial and error to find the right medication and dosage. This is why it’s important to not give up on medication, it may be that the one you’re on isn’t right, its vital you don’t just stop taking your medication, consult your doctor if you have any concerns.

Even if you’ve been on the medication for a while, your body can react to the drug at any point so its necessary to attend medication reviews, even if you feel find on it.

Why the same medication can have different names:

Each medication that you have been prescribed can have more than one name, their generic name (which is the medical name of the drug) and also a trade name (which is the name the company making the medications give the drug). As some medications have more than one company manufacturing the medication some drugs can have more than one trade name.

It’s important to know both the trade and generic name as when professionals discuss the medication with you they may use either name.

For example, sertraline (an antidepressant that you could be prescribed) also has a trade name of Zoloft.


The importance of taking medication as prescribed


Medication is used for many mental health conditions, yet, many people don’t take it as prescribed. This could be because they believe they are better or they feel the medication isn’t working properly. For some people to achieve the kind of life they desire medication is a key factor, preventing them from hospital admissions or relapses.

If you stop taking medicine without authorisation from your doctor, not only may you have a relapse, but it can cause some very negative side effects. Normally if a doctor decides to take you off the medication they will gradually reduce the dose to minimise the side effects.

Medication is only part of the recovery, talking therapy has also proved just as helpful if not more for some patients.

Doctors are the experts, they know the reasons behind why the specific medication has been prescribed, as well as the timings and dosage. If it states that it should be taken before or after food, there is probably a reason for this, so it’s vital so abide by the instructions.

Making yourself more aware on the medication may help you be less reluctant to take it. Understanding why you’re taking it and what it does should only encourage you to take it. For some it may be difficult because medication changes all the time, new ones are brought out and some people are on a range of different type of tablets.

Because there are so many types of medication available there may be a few options available which would suit your symptoms. You may have to try a few to find the right one for you.

Educating yourself is probably the best option, people say don’t read the leaflet that comes with the medication, but it can prove very useful, especially if you don’t read too much into the side effects.



Unused prescriptions cost the NHS an estimated £300 million every year

This could pay for:

  • 11,778 community nurses or

  • 80,906 hip replacements or

  • 19,799 drug treatment courses for breast cancer

  • 300,000 more drug treatment courses for Alzheimer’s

Unused medicines cannot be recycled - even if they have never been opened before they cannot be recycled or given to other patients.

Unused medicines are a safety risk - they are a risk to children, pets as well as yourself if left in an unsafe place

You can dispense medicines safely at your local pharmacy.


Your way of helping:

  • Let your GP know if you have stopped taking any medicines.

  • Check what medications you still have before placing another prescription

  • Discuss your medication regularly with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Only tick the medicines you really need on your repeat prescription, often people tick them all when really they only require a few of them.

  • Don’t order it if you don’t need it, you can always order more at a later date, ‘stocking up’ costs the NHS more.

  • If you need to go into hospital take all your medication with you.

  • Remember medication is prescribed for you, don’t offer someone else it, even if their symptoms are the same.