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Clearing up questions on psychiatric medications

Taking medications on a daily basis can be a chore, but it becomes more challenging if there’s lack of understanding of – or misconceptions about – your medication.

“In my practice, I come across many patients who are skeptical about taking psychiatric medications,” said Dr. Filza Hussain, a Mayo Clinic Health System behavioral health physician.

Hussain says there are a few factors that contribute to this distrust:

• The medication has to be taken every day. Unfortunately, psychiatric medications don’t always work immediately, as pain pills do.

• Psychiatric medications often take several weeks to start working.

• Patients worry about how medications will affect them, both with side effects and risk of addiction.

She noted that prescription medications referred to as antidepressants are also effective anti-anxiety medications.

To see results, you must take these medications consistently, she said. If you’ve been taking your medication for at least six weeks without much benefit, ask your physician to look at the dose you were prescribed. The medication dose needs to be optimized before you can determine the medication’s efficacy.

Some psychiatric medications are habit forming. These medications are considered controlled substances. Your physician will prescribe these types of medications only when absolutely necessary. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants aren’t habit-forming or addictive.

Although some medications may cause increased anxiety or irritability, this response is uncommon. If there’s a change in your behavior after taking a particular medicine, speak with your physician to help you to find a more suitable option.

If you’ve had side effects from one medication, you won’t necessarily get them with similar medications.

“If you’re having issues with medications, promptly contact your health care team. Discontinuing medications on your own is not a good idea,” Hussain said. “Don’t wait until your next appointment, because you lose precious time and spend days suffering unnecessarily. Your physician wants to help you find medication that works for you.”

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