Being prescribed a new medication to manage your mental health symptoms can surface many emotions. If this is the first time you have been prescribed medication, you may feel excited as you hope to experience relief from your symptoms. On the other hand, you may feel overwhelmed as you try and welcome this new medication to your daily life.
It is essential to understand that trying a new medication, whether it’s the first one or the fourth, is not something to take lightly. There are many things you need to consider before you can feel comfortable enough to rely on your medication for its potential benefits.
Similarly, if you are being treated for a substance use disorder (SUD), you may be recommended medication to treat any co-occurring mental health conditions. Since you are your best advocate for your mental wellness, it is vital to engage in your own research and reflect on any changes you may experience as you take your new medication.
Why are Psychotropic Medications Used for Mental Health?
Medications that affect mental functioning and associated behavior and experience are known as psychotropic medications. Some common examples of psychotropic medications include:
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Mood stabilizers
Mental health disorders result from communication problems between neurons and neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurons send messages to and from different brain areas responsible for carrying out specific brain and body functions, such as regulating our breathing, learning levels and other psychological functions. Neurotransmitters act as chemical messenger signals. When there are communication errors between neurons and associated neurotransmitters, it can lead to mental and emotional distress.
Psychotropic medications treat and manage mental health disorders by regulating neurotransmitter signals and overall neuronal communication in the brain. They are prescribed for a variety of different circumstances, from reducing psychiatric symptoms to balancing mood. Despite the misunderstanding that people should not be dependent on medication to function normally, psychotropics are necessary because they help to level neurotransmitters in the brains of those that experience significant chemical deficits or hyperactivity.
Receiving a New Prescription
Before you are administered a prescription, you will undergo a series of evaluations and assessments conducted by a mental health professional. These assessments will help determine your diagnosis, the severity of your symptoms and the best-fit potential treatment routes for your care. Depending on those factors, you may be administered medication as an initial treatment attempt or later down the line if you find that you are not benefitting from psychotherapy alone.
Medications may also be recommended to treat co-occurring mental health conditions for individuals that are struggling with SUD. If this is the case, talk with your physician about your willingness to try a new medication or if you are concerned about future addictive potential or chemical dependency. Physicians are aware of what prescriptions tend to be addictive and which are not; however, it is still an important topic to discuss with your healthcare professional.
Initial Considerations Upon Receiving a Prescription
Upon receiving a new prescription, one of the first things you should do is research your medication as much as possible. You will want to know what the drug is supposed to do, potential adverse side effects and other things that may interfere with the effectiveness of your medication. Consider asking your doctor questions such as:
- What is this medication typically meant to treat?
- What do I do if I experience adverse side effects?
- How do I know when the medicine is working correctly?
- When should I be concerned about misusing my medication?
- Are there any drug interactions that could affect the effectiveness of this medication?
Even after talking with your doctor, you will want to research the medication on your own time. However, if you read reviews about your medication, remember that every medication affects everyone differently. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment, especially concerning intricate psychotropic medications.
Allowing Medication Time to Work Properly
After you have gone a few days or weeks taking your medication regularly, you may or may not experience a difference in your thoughts or behavior patterns. Depending on the type of medication prescribed, dosage and severity of your symptoms, your prescription may take several weeks to start working properly. Talk with your doctor regularly. A good rule of thumb is to give it at least three weeks before making an appropriate judgment, although sometimes it can take up to 8 weeks to experience significant benefits.
Managing Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
More often than not, it will take trying several different medications before finding one that complements your unique brain chemistry well. During your experience trying medications, you may run into adverse or otherwise uncomfortable side effects. Understand that some side effects will disappear after your body acclimates to the drug. In other cases, you may have to lower your dose, try a different medication or add another medication to your mental health routine. Always contact your doctor before making a decision, and never stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor first.
Your mental health professional should advise you that the most effective treatment route for managing mental health disorders is through a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Some treatment centers refer to this as medication-assisted treatment. Medication is also a common treatment option for individuals going through detox, as certain medications can help to ease uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and treat co-occurring conditions. If you were not recommended previously, you might want to connect with traditional treatment approaches while you trial your medication.
Although trying a new medication can be time-consuming and exhausting, it is crucial to have hope. Trust that eventually, you will find a drug that will work to reduce and manage your symptoms.
Casa Palmera is a treatment center that offers specialized treatment for those struggling with substance use and mental health problems. We can help you effectively trial your prescription alongside traditional treatment options to make your treatment experience more effective overall. To learn more about our treatment programs and other offerings, call us today at (855) 508-0473.