Medication problems? - How to find the best solution

by Tom Cloyd - 4 min. read - (reviewed 2023-01-23 PT)

Psychotropic medications have revolutionized psychiatry, without question. They can also be mixed blessing, as anyone with real-world experience knows.

Contents of this page…

Three critical facts to know immediately

  1. Medications involve chemistry and biology, at a minimum. Do not minimize the complexity of either. Add to this the fact that psychotropic medications target the most complex organic structure we know of the universe - the human mind - and we should all be in awe that such medications even exist. For almost all of human history they have not in fact.

  2. Human beings are not clones of each other. We all have a degree of uniqueness, and this makes medication management challenging. It can take time for your medication provider to learn about YOU in relation to your medication. Be glad that we also have a large degree of sameness as well - this is what makes generalizations possible, and from them we can progress to mental health improvements much faster than if we had to learn everything anew with each person being treated.

  3. Mental health improvements that we hope for when using medications often take time. The complex processes involved in medication, as well as the imperfections in how drugs interact with our bodies and minds, very often require patience. Medication response is just not as rapid in many cases as we want. Sometimes the response is just not right, too. It can take time to discover this, and to find the medication that works best for an individual. No one like this, but here again we can see why we are called “patients”. We are the ones who do most of the waitng, necessarily.

Get reliable medication information by consulting your pharmacist

I urge, as a mental health professional with decades of clinical experience (some in psychiatric units), that the best source of information about your medication’s typical effects and how long it takes is your pharmacist. These are professionals are a valuable, underutilized resource for all of us. Physicians consult them regularly, and you should too.

I advise visiting your pharmacist in person, if possible. Call first to find a time to come in when they are not frantically busy. Some will set an appointment with you, which is ideal. If a personal visit is impractical, a call can work fine, so do make that call.

Personalized medication information is best obtained from your psychiatrist or physician

They are by far the best person to making sense of how YOU are responding to your medication. Psychiatrists are very often highly scheduled, and in some parts of the country there just aren’t enough of them, which makes the situation worse. Nevertheless, very few psychiatrists I’ve ever worked with or known were anything but at least reasonably compassionate. They are not mind readers, however. You have to let them know of your distress so that they can respond.

Contacting your psychiatrist requires that you call their office. You likely won’t get them personally, as they will either be seeing a patient in their office or at a hospital, or working through the paperwork that they all complain about. You’ll likely get an office nurse. Psychiatric nurses most often are compassionate sources of problem resolution. If they do not have good answers for your questions, they will take them to your psychiatrist for a quick consult, then get back to you.

Get reliable medication information also by reading!

All medications come with detailed information from the pharmaceutical company that makes them. There are usually two versions - one for patients and one for medical professionals. You will get both, and should attend to both, as they often contain a wealth of information. Read them more than once. You will be reminded of important information, as well as pick up new information you missed in an earlier reading. File these information sheets in a place you can find them. If you lose either of the information sheets get new ones from your pharmacist. (or from online resources - see next section)

Make intelligent use of the excellent online resources available

When consulting the following resources, it is a good idea to make notes on information of particular interest or relevance to you, due to the large amount of information these resources offer.

Organized questions get the best results

Organize your questions before contacting either your pharmacist or your psychiatrist, so that you’ll get as much information as possible. When I have done this, I’ve found it useful to write down my concerns, in a list, so I make sure I touch upon each one. Write down also the information you when asking each of your questions.

About online support groups - use with caution

I would urge that you be thoughtful about any information you pick up online (or elsewhere) from non-professionals. Everyone has an opinion, and some can be seriously misleading. At the same time it can be truly helpful to hear about the experiences of other people. It can help you feel less alone with your challenges and struggle. You also might get some sensible tips for improving your situation. Smart people maintain a reasonably critical attitude so that they don’t end up making things worse for themselves.

 

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