Have you ever visited your medical doctor for an infection and he/she prescribed antibiotics? If so, your healthcare team likely emphasized taking ALL of the medication in the bottle, even if you felt better before finishing it. Why? This is because the antibiotic needs to stay in your body for a certain amount of time to make sure any lingering “Illness bacteria” are neutralized. But let’s say you felt better and had five days of medication left, and decided “I guess I don’t need to finish the medication, I feel great!” You will likely get the infection again a week later, and this time it may be more potent, as the antibiotic was not given enough time to neutralize the infecting bacteria. Now those strong bacteria are multiplying and thriving in your body, and you are feeling the outcome of the infection through a fever, cough, stuffed head, or other symptoms.
It is a similar situation for those with behavioral health challenges who decide to utilize medications for their symptoms. Medication should be taken exactly as the health care professional prescribes. It can sometimes take a few weeks for medication to reach that “therapeutic level,” and thus you may not feel an improvement right away. However, once that level is reached, it is important to continue taking that medication as prescribed. Your doctor or nurse practitioner will monitor the effects of the medication and adjust dosages as needed. Any questions, potential allergies, or other concerns should be presented to your doctor right away to plan next steps.
It is very important to take medications exactly as prescribed in order to achieve the desired results and benefit your mind and your body. However, you also need to feel comfortable and confident with the medications you are taking, and should speak with your doctor before starting any new medication.
The FDA recommends asking your doctor a variety of questions when starting any medication, including the following:
- What is the name of the medication, and what is it supposed to do?
- How long before you expect to see results?
- What kind of track record in terms of effectiveness does this medication have?
- What are the primary short-term side effects of this medication?
- Does this medication have any long-term side effects that I should be aware of, such as diabetes, sexual side effects, or weight gain?
- Are there ways to minimize these side effects?
- How and when do I take it, and when do I stop taking it?
Clearly, working closely with your healthcare team before initiating any medication is critical to fully understand the benefits and risks associated with the new prescription. New Vitae Wellness and Recovery staff encourage you to speak with your physician or prescriber in order to learn more about new or ongoing prescriptions. We wish you the best health!
Andrew Amick, RN, BSN
Director of Wellness, Recovery Center