for better mental health

Psychiatric medication

Explains what psychiatric drugs are, what to know before taking them, and information on side effects and coming off medication.

What do I need to know before I take medication?

Before deciding to take any drug, it's important to make sure you have all the facts you need to make an informed choice. As a starting point, you should feel confident that you can answer 'yes' to all of the following statements.

I understand:

  • what the drug is
  • why I've been offered it
  • what alternative treatments are available, such as talking treatments, or local support groups
  • what the possible benefits and risks are, including if there is a risk I could become dependent on it
  • what the possible side effects are
  • how, when and how much I should take
  • how long my doctor expects me to take it for
  • how to store it safely (for example, in the fridge)
  • how to stop taking it safely
  • what different names the drug might be called.

I have:

  • checked the ingredients list and I know that there's nothing in the drug that I'm intolerant to, or don't want to take (such as lactose or gelatin).
  • read the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) that comes in the drug packet, and understand what it says; if you are in hospital, or you are not given a PIL with your medication, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist for a copy.

I've told my doctor:

  • if I'm taking any other medication, including non-prescription medicines
  • if I have any other health problems
  • if I am pregnant or breastfeeding a child
  • about any previous experiences I have of taking psychiatric medication – for example, what worked, what didn’t and any side effects I had.

If you are unsure about any of these details you should ask your doctor or pharmacist.

This information was published in 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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