Author – Kate Sumner
Correct use of medications is a topic that comes up time and again in the clinic. With this in mind I thought that a recap on the subject and why it is such a crucial part of our self care would be useful.
Sometimes we need an extra helping hand. This is not something to be ashamed about. We would not think to refuse medication for a cold or infection and psychological medications should be viewed as equally, if not more, essential to our health. These medications are there to support and stabilise us through a difficult period. Without this support it can sometimes feel far too overwhelming to address the issues that are coming up as you proceed on your recovery journey. The combination of therapy and medication can be a powerful tool but only when used in the correct way.
If you are taking medications always adhere to the following rules:
1. Only take the medication prescribed to you by a doctor.
Never take medication that you have purchased illegally, bought online or “borrowed” from a friend. This is extremely dangerous. You have no way of knowing what you are really taking. Doctors will always check your physical health before they prescribe any medication. It is not a case of one rule fits all and what works for one person may not work for you. If you are taking medications that have not been prescribed to you it can be considered another form of self harm. It is also illegal to sell or buy medications.
2. Take the correct dose of your medication in the correct manner.
Your doctor will have prescribed you a certain dose for a reason. They are the medical experts and in order for your medication to work their instructions should be followed exactly. Take the correct number of pills at the correct times of the day. Set yourself a reminder on your phone if you struggle to remember. Read the directions and see if they should be taken before or after food. This is very important. In order for your body to utilise the medication correctly it needs to be processed in a very specific way. This is why tablets come in all different shapes and sizes with different instructions.
3. Flag any side effects immediately.
We are all individuals and therefore we each respond to medication in a different way. Whilst it can take a few days for our bodies to adjust to the medication these side effects may also be red flags that should not be ignored. If these symptoms persist then it is always important that you let your doctor know.
4. Do not stop taking your medication because you feel it is not working.
All medications differ but it can take some weeks before the full effect kicks in. This can feel frustrating as you were hoping for an immediate fix but it is important that you see the process through. If you still do not believe the medication is working then you should go back to your doctor who can discuss prescribing you something different. Sometimes it is a case of trial and error before you find a medication that suits you. Do not give up.
5. Check drug interactions.
Always be aware that certain medications do not mix and can have unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous, side effects. General cold remedies, painkillers, etc that you can buy over the counter at a pharmacy are included in this category. As are recreational drugs and supplements. Always tell the doctor if you are taking any supplements, including herbal tinctures. If you are unsure then please check with your doctor first. With some medications it is also suggested that you avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and can work against the effects of your medication.
6. If you forget a dose do not double up the next day.
The temptation can be rectify the “mistake” by taking all of the forgotten medication. Please do not do this. This is extremely dangerous and could result in an overdose. Continue to take your medication in the correct manner and if you are concerned about the lapse speak with your doctor. If you continue to miss doses this will severely impair the effects of the medication and can leave you feeling very disorientated.
7. If you purge your medications will be less effective.
It can take many hours for the medications to be fully processed (they are not absorbed immediately after you take them). Purging during this period can therefore remove a considerable amount of medication from your system and result in a lesser/nullified impact.
8. Renewing your prescription and coming off of your medication.
Always make a note of when you need to file your next prescription and set a reminder so you allow yourself enough time to visit your doctor. Be mindful that sometimes it can take up to a week to get an appointment to see your doctor. If you decide that you would like to look at coming off your medication this is a conversation that you should have with your doctor. Never abruptly stop taking your medication. You will experience a withdrawal that can leave you feeling unwell and emotional. It can be a very scary experience. When the time is right for you to come off your medication your doctor will start to slowly decrease your dose to prevent this from happening.
If at any point you feel concerned about your medication use or feel unsafe with it in your possession please bring it immediately to your GP or therapist.