Side Effects Of Mental Health Medications

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Charles Caley, professor of pharmacy and psychiatric pharmacist at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, talks about some of the side effects of medications designed to help people with mental health conditions.

Here are some common questions about medications for mental health conditions with answers provided by Caley.

How important is it for it for people with diagnosed mental health conditions to take their medications as prescribed and to not alter their dose?

Individuals with mental health conditions must be very careful and make sure they take the dosage their doctors’ prescribe so the medication is most effective. They should continue taking their medication as prescribed even if they start feeling better. Individuals on prescribed psychiatric medication should never alter their prescribed dose or stop taking the medication without consulting their doctor first. Stopping a dose may lead to a relapse in their condition and even, potentially, hospitalization.

What if a person has an issue with their medication, say they feel it is not helping or perhaps they are experiencing an unpleasant side effect. How does a pharmacist help if they cannot contact their doctor?

Their local pharmacist can help. But unfortunately many individuals with mental illness are reluctant to speak to their pharmacist about their medications. A recent national study we did with the National Alliance on Mental Illness showed approximately 75 percent of individuals with mental illness or their caregivers said they seldom or never receive assistance from their pharmacist even though they feel comfortable and respected in their local pharmacy. Those that responded said they were mostly concerned about privacy when speaking with their pharmacist.

Do doctors encourage patients to speak with their pharmacists like they do their doctors?

Many people see their pharmacist on a monthly basis so pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care providers out there. They are definitely a resource people should use and can serve as a first line of defense in identifying potential medication issues that a person should discuss with their doctor. This is especially true with psychiatric medication where a doctor and patient must work closely together to find an appropriate medication and to adjust the dosage so that it works best for a particular need. People react differently to psychiatric medication and may need to try several medications before finding the right one.

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