Questions to Ask About Medications

Many times, physicians will order medications to treat a mental health illness, if behavioral health treatment alone is not helping your symptoms. If your doctor suggests starting a medication, it is because they feel the benefit of the medication outweighs the risks. The decision to take the medicine should be a shared decision between you and your doctor. Tell your doctor what you think about medications. If you are thinking about starting a new medication, ask your doctor these four questions:

  • What does the medication actually do to my body and my mind?
  • How will I know it is working?
  • What side effects can I expect, and will they go away?
  • What can I do to manage the side effects?

If you agree to take the medication, the next step is to take the medicine as your doctor taught you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as these:

  • If the medicine is taken once a day, should I take it in the morning or the evening?
  • Should I take it on an empty stomach or after I eat food?
  • What if I miss a dose?
  • Can I drink alcohol when I am on this medication?
  • Are there any foods, drinks, or other medications I should not take at the same time?
  • If I have an allergic reaction to the medicine, such as a rash or trouble breathing, what should I do?

Over time, the doctor will monitor your response to the medication and adjust the medication as needed. In between doctor appointments, you can write down how your body and mind feel on the medication, if you are having any side effects, and if you are seeing any improvement in the symptoms that led you to start the medication.

Keep in mind that there may be more than one medication available to you. If this medication does not seem to be working, talk to your doctor. Do not stop the medication suddenly without talking to your doctor first. Taking medication is a partnership between you and your doctor, so ask questions. The more you understand, the more positive you will feel about your treatment.

Reference: Sarah J. Shoemaker and Djenane Ramalho de Oliveira, “Understanding the meaning of medications for patients,” Pharmacy World & Science, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2008, pp. 86 – 91.