Mental health medication like Antidepressants or Antipsychotics are a crucial part of mental health treatment. When they work, it can help enormously.

But for some people, psychiatric medicine doesn’t work. It isn’t always clear why this is. This can be very frustrating and can make your wellbeing worsen.

However, there are several things that can be done. This article takes a look at the various things that you can try when your mental health medicine isn’t working.

Medicine doesn’t work for everyone

Does medicine always work?

Unfortunately, medicine doesn’t always work. It can often take multiple treatment attempts before finding something that works.

Using antidepressants as an example, many people find that it takes two, three or even four different attempts before finding one that has a positive effect. With that said, for many people, the first medicine will be sufficient.

Normally though, after trying a few different types of medicine combinations, people do find that they are able to find something that is effective for them.

For anyone that doesn’t see an improvement in their symptoms after trying mental health medication, then there are a few different methods that can be tried.

Give the medicine time

Mental health medicines are not overnight fixes. It can take a few days or weeks (depending on the medicine) before any benefit can be found.

Make sure you give your medicine a few weeks for it to take effect. If you try any of the below methods too hastily, it will not give the medicine the chance to be effective.

Increase the dose

Arguably the most simple approach is to increase the dose that you are taking. This should only ever be done with a doctor’s approval.

It might be that the dose you are currently taking does not provide therapeutic benefit. By raising the dose, you may see an improvement.

Switch medicines

Perhaps the most effective solution is to try another medicine. This is typically a similar medicine that in theory does the same thing, only that its different chemical make-up may provide more of a benefit to you.

As an example, if someone is taking an antidepressant, they are often prescribed Sertraline (Zoloft) to begin with. If after a few months they found this wasn’t working, they may be changed to a similar antidepressant like Fluoxetine (Prozac).

This process can continue until an effective medicine is found for the patient. The positive thing with antidepressants is that there are different classes. So if a person does not find any success with SSRI’s, then they could try a medicine from the SNRI class – such as Venlafaxine (Effexor). Evidence shows that this latter move has been successful for some [1].

Hopefully, by switching medicines, patients will see an improvement in their symptoms. It isn’t clear why some people are more compatible with certain drugs – but the important thing is to find a medicine that works.


Some patients have found success through augmentation – which is the process of adding a second medicine to the existing ineffective one.

For example, those with Bipolar Disorder that have failed to react to the first-line treatment of Lithium may be given either Lamotrigine (Lamictal) or Sodium Valproate (unless they are female at a child-bearing age) as an addition.

Augmentation has the potential to work well. By adding a second medicine, this in theory provides a second medicine that can have a strong effect – potentially doubling the impact.

Research shows that augmentation can work strongly, especially with antidepressants. One particular study found that “California Rocket Fuel” – a nickname for a Venlafaxine and Lamotrigine combination – was hugely successful for those struggling to find success with antidepressants [2].

Augmentation can also involve combining different types of medicine. For example, those with Depression can be prescribed a combination of an antidepressant and Lamotrigine – which is a mood stabiliser that has antidepressant-like effects.

Some people though are against augmentation. This is due to the increased risk of side effects, needing to take more medicine or even cost.

Talking Therapy

In an ideal world, your treatment should involve both talking therapy and medication. Talking therapy can have numerous benefits, with many people finding it can result in remission from their symptoms.

However, not everyone finds that talking therapy is useful for them – there are many advantages and disadvantages to it. But if medicine isn’t working, therapy is worth trying!

There are a huge range of types of talking therapy. If you have only tried one and didn’t find it effective, you could try another type of therapy. Common types of therapy include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy.

We have a lot of information on our website about talking therapy. You can read more about it and see our extensive articles by seeing our therapy section here.

Taking time without medicines

Some people find that after trying medicines that didn’t end up working, they wish to spend some time without medicine.

While this is unlikely to result in improvements, some find that a detox away from medicines can be beneficial. Adopting a more natural way of living has the potential to help.

Alternative and Complimentary Medicines

Aside from mental health medicine and talking therapy, there are other forms of treatments that exist. These are referred to as “alternative and complimentary” treatments.

It is important to note that these treatments do not have much scientific proof to justify their use. But if you have not been able to benefit from more conventional treatments, it is worth considering other options.

We have an article that looks at 10 of these treatments. They include CBD Oil, 5-HTP, Herbal Remedies and St. John’s Wort among others.

If you did wish to read more about these various treatments, you can see our dedicated article to this topic. It is important to speak to your doctor before trying any of these treatments though.


It can be very difficult when the medicine you are taking doesn’t work. Giving the medicine time to work is crucial, which requires patience – which is something not many of us have when we are struggling mentally.

If the psychiatric medicine you are taking doesn’t work, then as discussed in this article, there are plenty of other methods that you can try. Hopefully, you will find a treatment combination that works for yourself and leads to improved mental health.

See Also



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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.


[1] Connolly, K. R., & Thase, M. E. (2012). If at First You Don’t Succeed. Drugs. 71: p43-64. DOI:

[2] Silva, J., Mota, J., & Azevedo, P. (2016). California rocket fuel: And what about being a first line treatment?. European Psychiatry, 33 (S1). DOI: