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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 side effects might I experience?

This side effects you may experience depend on which medication you take and your individual reaction to it. Some people get certain side effects while others don't.

If you do get side effects, they could be mild or severe. There is no way to know how you will react before you start taking the medication.

If you experience side effects, it is worth thinking about whether the benefits of taking the drug outweigh any negative effects. This is something you can discuss with your GP or pharmacist.

We have information on the side effects you may experience from different types of psychiatric medication. See our pages on:

If you want to find the possible side effects of an individual drug, you can check the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) that comes in the package for your medication. Or you can search for your drug in our A to Z of psychiatric medication and download the relevant PIL for your drug.

"Antipsychotics are effective but they make me really tired. I just cannot think straight when I'm on them."

What should I do if I get side effects?

If you feel seriously unwell

  • Get medical advice immediately.
  • Contact your GP or pharmacist right away, or call 999 for an ambulance.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery. This includes driving to seek medical help.

If you feel moderately unwell or very worried

  • Get medical advice within 12 hours.
  • Contact NHS 111 or see your GP or pharmacist.

If you feel mildly unwell or uncomfortable

  • Get medical advice in the next few days.
  • Contact NHS 111 or see your GP or pharmacist. Or contact your nurse prescriber or care coordinator, if you have one.
  • If you have only just started taking the medication, it may help to wait a few days to see if the side effects wear off. But if you are concerned, you can still speak to your GP or pharmacist or call NHS 111 for advice.

"When I first read the list of side effects of the medication I'd be taking, my first impulse was to flush it down the toilet. It was scary stuff. But I took it and I feel that medication has really helped me over the years."

How likely am I to get side effects?

The likelihood of experiencing different side effects varies for each drug. Your risk of experiencing a side effect is described in most PILs for specific drugs. It usually looks like this:

  • Very common (affects more than 1 person in 10).
  • Common (affects between 1 in 10 and 1 in 100 people).
  • Uncommon (affects between 1 in 100 and 1 in 1,000 people).
  • Rare (affects between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 10,000 people).
  • Very rare (affects fewer than 1 in 10,000 people).
  • Not known (we do not know how many people are affected).

In other words, if the risk is described as very rare (fewer than 1 in 10,000), that means 9,999 people out of 10,000 probably won't experience that side effect.

This data is available for all newer drugs, but not for some older drugs.

Can I report any side effects I experience?

If you experience any side effects, you can report them via the Yellow Card scheme. This scheme collects information about the side effects of different drugs. It is a voluntary scheme, so you don’t have to report side effects if you don’t wish to.

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

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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