If you’ve talked with your provider and they decide to prescribe a certain medication for you, there are a few key questions to ask before beginning the treatment.
What is the medicine? What is it going to treat? Are there any side effects? How long will it take for me to feel better? How will I know if it’s working well?
Dosage and effectiveness can vary from person to person, so you may need an adjustment after four to six weeks. Here are a few other factors to consider before starting a new medication:
Know the half-life and side effects.
Medications must be at a steady state in your system to work well, which can be achieved by taking the medication as prescribed. Some medications, such as Prozac, have a longer half-life, which means they can stay in the body longer than other medications. Medications with a shorter half-life, like Effexor, are processed more quickly. It’s important to know your medication’s half-life because if you miss a dose of a medication with a longer half-life, you may not feel a difference, but if the half-life is shorter, you may become dizzy or emotional.
One reason someone may stop taking their medication as prescribed is the presence of side effects. Some common side effects with depression medications include nausea, headaches, and diarrhea, and they usually go away within a few weeks. More urgent side effects that should be addressed by a professional immediately include rashes, suicidal thoughts, or thoughts about harming someone else.
Plan the timing.
Do you take the medicine in the morning or at night? Taking it at a consistent time every day can ensure its effectiveness.
Evaluate your food and alcohol habits.
Some medications can have life-threatening effects when combined with alcohol. Some medications, such as a newer antidepressant named Viibryd, requires food in order for the medication to be broken down and used by the body.
Be honest and open with your provider.
Before starting a new medication, tell your healthcare provider about all other medications and supplements you’re taking. They can interact, raising the level of one medication in your system. For example, taking the supplement 5-HT and Prozac at the same time may lead to a condition called Serotonin Syndrome, which can be life threatening.
If you frequently miss doses of your prescription, let your provider know so they can help you work through the reasons you may be missing them. Are you experiencing negative side effects? Are you forgetting to take it? Your provider may increase a dose of your medication if you’re taking it as prescribed and it’s not working well, but if it’s “not working” and you’re missing doses, increasing your dose could cause even more side effects. Open communication with your provider can be a great foundation for your treatment plan and will enable you to work together to make the best decisions about your care.
If you and your therapist feel that you may benefit from a medication, give us a call. We can talk to you about a comprehensive wellness program that includes sleep, nutrition, exercise, therapy, and perhaps, medication.
— Sonya Ruedlinger, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, PMHNP-BC