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 2018.


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