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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 helps to have all the information you need to make an informed choice. As a start, you could use the following list of statements and see if you can answer 'yes' to all of them.

I understand:

  • what the drug is
  • why I have been offered it
  • what other treatment and support options are available, such as talking therapies, peer support and complementary and alternative therapies
  • what the possible benefits and risks of taking medication are
  • what the possible side effects are and how likely I am to develop them
  • how, when and how much of the medication I may need to take
  • how long I may need to take the medication before it begins working
  • how long I might need to continue taking the medication for. For example, if it is for a few days or weeks, or for a longer period
  • how to store the medication safely, such as in a fridge
  • how to stop taking the medication safely
  • what different names the drug might be called
  • what to do if my medication runs out. See our page on accessing medication for more information.

I have:

  • checked the ingredients list and know that there's nothing in the drug that I'm allergic to, intolerant of, or don't want to take. For example, some drugs contain lactose or gelatin
  • read the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) that comes in the drug packet, and understand the information it has about my medication. Our A to Z of psychiatric medication has links to download PILs for different psychiatric drugs.

I have told my doctor if I:

  • take any other medication, including non-prescription medicines
  • have any other physical or mental health problems
  • am pregnant or breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant in the future
  • have any previous experiences of psychiatric medication. For example, this may include what I took, what worked and what didn't, and any side effects I experienced.

If you are unsure about any of these details, you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist. If this feels like it might be a difficult conversation, our page on talking to your GP may help.

This information was published in March 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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