It is very normal to have many questions regarding mental health medications – whether you are a patient, parent or anyone else with an interest in the topic. Having the answers to these questions can be very useful.

In this article, we have collated a range of frequently asked questions regarding mental health medicines. We also have an article that looks at Everything You Need to Know About Mental Health Medicines – which can give you a background and overview of the topic.

It is understandable to have questions about mental health medicines


Please note that these questions are still under construction, and that the links may not all currently work.

What are the different types of mental health medicines?

There are a few different types of mental health medicines that can be split into six areas. The most well-known types are Antidepressants and Antipsychotics. Mood Stabilisers are also common.

Less common types of medicine that can be used in mental health treatment include Benzodiazepines, Analgesics, and Sedatives, Hypnotics and Anxiolytics.

You can see a list of the different types of mental health medicines at this link [cons].

How do mental health medicines work?

Scientists are not entirely sure how mental health medicines work – and how they effect our brains. However, they are known to target certain chemicals in the brain that are believed to be linked to mood, perception of reality and motivation.

The chemicals that are targeted depend on the type of medicine involved. They include dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, and gamma-aminobutyric acid.

You can read about How Mental Health Medicines work at this link.

Do mental health medicines work?

For most people, mental health medicines do have a positive impact on their mental health. For some, these medicines can give them a boost, improve their mood or make them feel like their old selves again. They can also stop depressive episodes.

However, it should be noted that it is rare for a patient to see all of their symptoms be relieved by a mental health medicine. Instead, most people use talking therapy as a way of solving the deeper issues.

You can read more about talking therapy at this link.

Are mental health medicines safe?

A very common concern revolves around the safety of mental health medicines. While it is true that no medication is always entirely safe – mental health medicines are largely safe and do not have lasting negative effects. You can read more about this in our dedicated article on safety here.

Moreover, it is useful to know that mental health medicines need to go through a stringent and thorough process in order to be approved for use. There are 5 main stages of a medicine becoming available – as this article explains.

How much does a prescription cost in the United Kingdom?

At the time of writing, the cost of a prescription in England is £9.65 per item. Some people are eligible for free prescriptions, depending on certain exemptions. Prescriptions are free in Scotland and Wales.

We have an article on the topic of prescriptions that you can read here. This article explains prescriptions in more detail and answers further questions.

What is the difference between generic and branded medication?

Medicines often have more than one name – which can be confusing! These are normally a “generic” and a “trade” or “branded” name. It is important at the outset to state that the drug is the same – regardless of name.

When a company discovers and then patents a drug, they often do so with a brand name. But eventually, once a patent runs out, any company can make the same medicine. By doing so, they create a “generic” drug which has the name of the medicine, rather than the brand.

An example would be the antidepressant Duloxetine. Its generic name is Duloxetine, but its brand names include Cymbalta and Yentreve. We have an article that explains this difference in more detail – which you can read here.

What does the half-life of a drug mean?

The “half-life” of a medicine is a phrase that is often used. The half-life of a medicine refers to the length of time it takes for the level of a drug’s active ingredient/substance in your body to reduce by half.

Half-life is important when it comes to withdrawing from a medicine. If a medicine has a short half-life, it is typically more difficult to withdraw from it. Medicines with a long half-life are usually easier to withdraw from.

If you wanted more information on the meaning and implications of a medicine’s half-life, we have a dedicated article that you can read here.

Therapy or medication – which is better for me?

The debate between therapy and medication can be difficult. Medication can be a life-saver for many people, especially in the short-term. But medication doesn’t fix the underlying problems that cause many mental health conditions. A combination of medication and therapy can work very well, but each case is unique.

It is best to have a conversation with your GP or mental health professional, as to which is best for you. We have an exhaustive article that looks at this debate in detail.

How long will I take medication for?

It can be very difficult to predict how long a patient will take medicine for. This is a very common question – as many are concerned that when they start taking a psychiatric medicine, that they will be on it for a long time.

However, when a medicine is prescribed, it is usually intended for a few months. For example, a typical course of antidepressants is around six months. Many will not use medicine for any longer than a year or two.

However, some people will unfortunately require medication for life. This is mainly relevant to those with more severe conditions like Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia. Every person is different.

Can I ever be forced to take mental health medicine?

There are two parts to this answer. It is important to know that in the vast majority of cases, you cannot be forced to take medicine. The patient is in control and it is their choice.

However, under very rare circumstances, a patient can be forced to take medication. This would only ever happen if the patient has been detained under the Mental Health Act (being sectioned). This would only ever happen if the patient was deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

You can read more about this topic here.

Can I buy mental health medicine online?

Purchasing mental health medicine online is very much a grey area. Ultimately, you can buy psychiatric medicine online, but it is important to exert extreme caution when doing so.

We strongly recommend that you go through the correct channels to get medicine – typically through your GP or mental health professional. This is the safest and most effective way of getting your medicines.

If you do wish to buy online, then make sure the website is legitimate. The NHS recommends that if you hope to buy medicine online, that the website is registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council – which you can read about here.

If you wanted more information on this topic – you can have a look at this article, which looks at the safety of buying medication online.

Can I drive while taking mental health medication?

Driving is a common concern for many people. If you are taking a mental health medicine like antidepressants, antipsychotics or mood stabilisers, generally, it is okay for you to drive.

It is strongly recommended that you do not drive or exert extreme caution when you first take psychiatric medicine. This is because you don’t know how you will respond.

Remember that you must tell the DVLA if you have certain mental health conditions. For more information on DVLA requirements and to see if your health condition affects your driving, you can view the’s guide here.

We have a dedicated article that looks at the topic of driving and mental health medicine available at this link.

What should I do if my medicine does not work?

It can be very frustrating when a medicine you are trying does not work. Unfortunately, it can take multiple attempts to find a medicine that suits you and alleviates your symptoms.

Changes to your dose, changing medicines, adding another medicine or starting talking therapy are common steps that people take. It is best to discuss this with your GP.

For more information on this topic, you can take a look at what you can do if your mental health medicine does not work.

What are the alternatives to medicine?

The best alternative to taking mental health medication is talking therapy. Talking therapy presents an excellent chance for a patient and therapist to work through problems together.

We have a huge range of therapy-related information on our website. You can see our therapy section here.

If talking therapy isn’t suitable for you, then you may be interested in our article that looks at 10 Alternative and Complimentary mental health treatments.


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If you are struggling with your mental health, help is available. With the right support and treatment, you can make a recovery. For information on helplines, or if you are in a state of crisis, please visit our crisis page by clicking on the relevant link for your geographical location (United Kingdom), (United States), (International). You can also see how to get mental health treatment and the process involved by clicking this link.