Medication management is a vital part of receiving optimal mental health care and patient outcomes. Regardless of your diagnosis, every patient responds differently to medications. While many benefit from medications, others may not respond as favorably.
Psychiatric medications include a variety of classifications, such as, antidepressants, antipsychotics or atypical antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. It is important to understand that a patient may be prescribed an atypical antipsychotic, but this does not necessarily mean they are experiencing psychosis (i.e., a disturbance in thoughts or perceptions where an individual may be out of touch with reality). Antipsychotics are often used in psychiatric medicine to treat anxiety, obsessive thoughts or behaviors, insomnia, and other symptoms.
Medication compliance or ‘adherence’ is a serious clinical problem in psychiatric medicine. While there are a variety of reasons, it’s important to note that people often stop taking their medication because they perceive no benefits within 2-3 weeks. Most medications used in psychiatric care require a minimum of 4-6 weeks of compliance before any benefit can be felt.
Prescribed medications also play a key role in the treatment of co-occurring disorders. They can reduce symptoms and prevent relapses of a psychiatric disorder. Medications can also help patients minimize cravings and maintain abstinence from addictive substances.
Noncompliance can have serious consequences, such as relapse or recurrence of a illness and worsening symptoms. Therefore, maintaining medication compliance is an important treatment goal for patients and clinicians. The first step in this process is the recognition and prevention of factors that could lead to noncompliance.
Here are just a few reasons why patients are often noncompliant with their medications:
They feel the medication(s) are not working
Inability to afford their medication
Prescription is not refilled on time
Prescription requires a follow-up visit with the doctor before another refill is approved
Substance use or abuse
If you are struggling to maintain compliance with your medications, it is vitally important to discuss the reasons with your healthcare provider. Often times, your provider can assist depending on the reason for noncompliance. For instance, if your medication is not covered by your insurance or requires a high copayment, your doctor can evaluate whether or not a different (and less expensive) medication can be prescribed.