Tips for Medication-Related Websites and Mobile Apps
Mental Health Medications
as described on NAMI website,
including descriptions of specific medications in the left frame of this link
can play an important part of a treatment plan. Any information on this site
should be discussed with a mental health care provider.
are usually more effective when combined with psychotherapy. In some cases,
medication can reduce symptoms so that other methods of a treatment plan can be
more effective. For example, a medication may alleviate some significant
symptoms of major depression and then talk therapy can help you change negative
patterns of thinking.
may work better for one person than for another. It is difficult to predict
exactly who will respond to what medication. Doctors usually review clinical
records and see if there is an evidence base for recommending one type of
medicine over another. Family history and side effects also come into play when
persistent until you find the medication or combination of medications that
works for you. A few psychiatric medications work quickly and you will see
improvements within days, but many work more slowly. You may need to take a
medication for several weeks before you see improvement.
If you feel
a medication doesn't work, or you are having side effects, consult with a
provider to adjust the treatment plan.
medications can be prescribed “off-label,” which means they haven’t been
approved by the FDA for a given condition. A doctor should justify his thinking
in recommending any treatment as well as be clear about the limits of the
research around that medication and if there are any alternate options.
may be a short-term aid that only needs to be taken for a few months. In other
cases, medication may be a long-term, or even life-long, treatment approach.
Some people are afraid that taking a medication will change their personality,
but most people find that treatment allows them to take charge of their
personality and make decisions about treatment and their quality of life.
benefits and risks of all treatment decisions is crucial. NAMI has brief
summaries of mental health medications provided by the College of Psychiatric
and Neurologic Pharmacists.
medications work by influencing the brain chemicals regulating emotions and
thought patterns. Treatment typically consists of pills or capsules taken
daily. A few medications are available as liquids, as injections or as tablets
that dissolve in the mouth.
medications, your provider will start at a low dose and slowly increase dosages
to therapeutic levels. Following these instructions will reduce side effects
stopping a medication, it's necessary to work with a doctor to taper off the
dosage while brain chemicals get used to the change. Stopping medication
abruptly can result in uncomfortable side effects.
for mental illness fall into the following categories.
medications reduce or eliminate the symptoms of psychosis (delusions and
hallucinations) by impacting the brain chemical called dopamine. Antipsychotics
play an important role in treating schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.
second-generation or atypical, antipsychotics can also treat acute mania,
bipolar disorder and treatment-resistant depression. The antipsychotics
developed in the middle of the 20th century are often referred to as
first-generation or typical antipsychotics.
The main difference
between the two types of antipsychotics are the areas of the brain that they
affect and their side effects. First-generation antipsychotics are more likely
to cause movement disorders and second-generation antipsychotics are more
likely to result in weight gain. The important thing is to find the medication
that works best for you.
have difficulty remembering to take daily pills, or people who have a history
of discontinuing medication, may have better results by taking medication as a
shot at the doctor’s office once or twice a month. This shot is called a
long-acting injectable antipsychotic medication (LAI) and it has the same
effects as medication taken in pill form.
drugs aren’t necessarily better or worse than first-generation, but do have
different side effects. First-generation medications may cause a side
effect known as tardive
dyskinesia. This is an uncomfortable, potentially embarrassing condition in
which the brain misfires and causes random, uncontrollable muscle movements or
tics. These most typically affect the arms, fingers, legs, toes or facial
medications improve the symptoms of depression by impacting the brain chemicals
associated with emotion, such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.
medications, SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and
selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), have fewer side effects than
older drugs, but no medication is side-effect-free.
of SSRIs and SNRIs include:
agitation or restlessness
- Reduced sexual
desire or difficulty reaching orgasm or inability to maintain an erection
- Weight gain or
- Dry mouth
won't experience these side effects, or will see them go away within a few weeks.
But if they continue, changing medications or dosage will often resolve the
antidepressant (bupropion) affects mostly the brain chemical dopamine and thus
forms a category of its own.
of antidepressants, which include tricyclics and MAOIs (monoamine oxidase
inhibitors), may be prescribed by a mental health professional if newer
medications do not seem to be effective.
common side effects of tricyclics (and tetracyclics) include:
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
appetite leading to weight gain
- Drop in blood
pressure when moving from sitting to standing, which can cause
oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are the least prescribed antidepressants because
they can cause dangerously high blood pressure if combined with certain foods
or medications. People taking MAOIs must watch their diets carefully to avoid
potentially life-threatening complications. The foods that are off-limits
include aged cheese, sauerkraut, cured meats, draft beer and fermented soy
products such as miso, tofu or soy sauce. For some individuals, wine and all
forms of beer may be contraindicated.
antidepressants may also be useful for treating depression that is mixed with
anxiety. Some antidepressants may be useful for PTSD, generalized anxiety
disorder and OCD, but may require higher doses.
that is part of bipolar disorder requires more careful assessment, as
antidepressants may worsen the risk of mania and provide little help for
depression associated with bipolar disorder.
medications work solely to reduce the emotional and physical symptoms of
anxiety. Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax) can treat social
phobia, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Heart medications
known as beta-blockers are also effective at treating the physical trembling
and sweating that people with phobias experience in difficult situations.
work quickly and are very effective in the short-term. People prone to
substance abuse may become dependent on them, however. It also may be necessary
to increase the dosage over time. The body becomes accustomed to these
medications over time and may require larger doses for the same therapeutic
effect. People who stop taking benzodiazepines abruptly may experience
unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
effects can include:
- Low blood
- Decreased sex
- Lack of
emotional dysfunction, including anger and violence
- Memory loss
stabilizers are the most common medications for treating the mood swings of
bipolar disorder. The oldest of them, Lithium, has been in use for over 50
years and has proven very effective, particularly for bipolar I disorder.
However, regular blood tests are a requirement if you’re taking Lithium, which
has potential serious side effects to the kidneys and thyroid.
also newer mood stabilizers originally created as anticonvulsants that may work
better than Lithium for some people. Mood stabilizers can prevent highs (manic
or hypomanic episodes) and lows (depressive episodes). All have important
side effects to know about and monitor.
medications are safe and effective for children, while others haven’t been
formally researched yet. Doctors may treat children by prescribing these
medications “off-label.” Questions remain about how these medications affect a
child’s growing body and brain. Children may also experience different side
effects than adults. Antidepressants, for instance, carry a warning that they
may increase suicidal tendencies in young people. Because of these
uncertainties, it’s important to monitor children and teens closely when
they're taking a medication.
As we age,
our bodies process medicines more slowly, so older adults may need lower
dosages. We’re also more likely to take multiple medications, increasing the
risk of unexpected and dangerous drug interactions. Memory problems may cause
older adults to miss doses or overdose. And certain side effects may be more
common in older adults, such as tardive dyskinesia, a side effect of
antipsychotics. For all these reasons, older people should pay careful
attention when monitoring treatment and symptoms.
woman with mental illness (or who may be pregnant or may want to become
pregnant) faces additional risks with medication. However, for some medicines
there is not enough research to make the decision clear.
stop taking medication because of pregnancy may relapse, which poses its own
dangers for the mother and child. Some medications can be transmitted to the
infant through the placenta or breastfeeding. Women should discuss the
pros and cons with their doctor. After giving birth, women should also consult
their doctor about how to prevent postpartum depression and whether it’s safe
to take medication while breastfeeding.
of Specific Cultural Groups
ethnic groups respond differently to medication, though more research is
needed. African Americans and some Asian Americans, for instance,
metabolize some medications more slowly than Caucasians. They are thus at
increased risk of certain side effects and may benefit from lower
ethnic groups treatment is also complicated by language barriers,
socio-economic stresses, lack of minority health care professionals and stigma.
To improve the odds of a strong recovery, reach out to culturally-specific
mental health providers. They can help locate support groups and doctors who
take culture and ethnic background into consideration.