Deciding to take psychiatric medicines like antidepressants or antipsychotics can be a difficult decision. There are definitely a lot of things to consider.

There are certain things that a person should know before taking psychiatric medicine. These range from having an understanding of the medicine to knowing what to expect when taking it.

There are many things to consider when deciding if you should take psychiatric medication

What is the medicine?

The first thing that a person should know is what the medicine they have been offered is. This includes its name and if applicable – its branded/trade name.

The patient should know what type of medicine it is, including its class – whether this is an antidepressant, antipsychotic, mood stabiliser or anything else.

Why has the patient been offered the medicine?

It is also important for the patient to know why they have been offered the medicine. Is this for the symptoms that they have, or is it because of a diagnosis?

They should know if there is a reason why a particular medicine has been offered. If it is for a diagnosed condition, they should be aware of this condition.

What dosage will the patient be given?

The dosage is also important to know. This relates to how much of the drug a patient will receive. Medicines come in different strengths – so having this information is useful.

The patient should be aware of how many times they will take the medicine each day, as well as if it will be in tablet or capsule format.

How long will the patient need to take the medicine for?

Knowing about the length of time that the patient will be taking the medicine is important. This will depend on the medicine and the patient’s symptoms or diagnosis.

Sometimes a person will need to take a medicine for several months or even years. The patient should consider if this is something they are willing to commit to.

When will the medicine start working?

The main point of a psychiatric medicine being prescribed is for it to improve the mental health of the patient. With this in mind, it is good to know when the medicine is likely to start working.

In most cases, it will take time for the medicine to work. This might be a matter of days or even weeks. Knowing about this helps to manage their expectations.

Are there any alternatives?

Not everyone is keen on taking psychiatric medication. With this in mind, they should consider any alternatives to medication.

This may include talking therapy – with the debate over which is more effective out of talking therapy and medication being an important consideration. Outside of these there are other alternative and complimentary treatments too.

Are there any side effects?

Something that is often asked is whether or not there are any side effects to the medicine that is being prescribed. Most medicines have some sort of side effect.

However, each medicine will differ. For the patient, it can help to know about how common side effects are, what they are, and how they can be coped with.

Is your doctor informed on your history?

In most cases there is a patient’s history available that a Doctor will know about. However, this isn’t always true.

Therefore, if a person is taking any other medicine (including non-prescription) they should make the doctor aware. Moreover, any use of illicit drugs should also be discussed. The doctor isn’t there to pass judgment on the patient’s social life, instead they are there to ensure safety. Any previous history of psychiatric medicine should also be discussed.

When should the patient follow up with their doctor?

When a new medicine is prescribed it is important for the doctor to monitor their patient. The patient should know when to next have an appointment with their doctor to follow-up on their progress.

If there is not a plan to meet again, the patient should ensure that they have clear information on who they can contact if they do need any help or problems with the medicine.

Stopping medication

The focus should always be on eventually stopping taking a medicine. It is never too soon to consider this. Before taking it, a patient should be aware of what the process is when it comes to stopping taking the medicine.

For example, can they go cold turkey, do they need to slowly cut down the dose, are they likely to face withdrawal effects and other related information can be useful.


These are all important areas to consider before taking any psychiatric medication. Having this information can be very helpful and educational.

By having this information, it ensures that the patient is well-informed and will understand the nature of the medicine and other crucial areas relating to it.

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