The Medication Station: Will I Be on Medications Forever?

When faced with the decision to incorporate medications as part of your treatment plan, you may have questions or reservations. Similarly to how a person with diabetes may rely on insulin or someone with hypertension may need medications to maintain a healthy blood pressure, psychiatric conditions may require pharmacological agents as part of a treatment plan to support a person to achieve and maintain safety and wellness.

When faced with the decision to incorporate medications as part of your treatment plan, you may have questions or reservations. Similarly to how a person with diabetes may rely on insulin or someone with hypertension may need medications to maintain a healthy blood pressure, psychiatric conditions may require pharmacological agents as part of a treatment plan to support a person to achieve and maintain safety and wellness. Mental illnesses are disorders of arguably the most important organ of the body, the brain! Genetics, psychosocial stressors, history of prior depressive/ psychotic episodes, comorbid medical illnesses, & substance use are just a few factors that contribute to the highly variable length of time your provider may recommend medications as part of your ongoing treatment plan. As your provider it is my priority to answer any questions you may have regarding medications, provide transparent and realistic expectations as we work together to help you reach your mental wellness goals! Let’s answer some fairly common questions about medication initiation, side effects, and continued medication compliance.

Q: How long will it take for my medication to work?
A: The length of time for a response to medication varies greatly depending on the medication and each individual’s enzymatic composition, which plays a role in the metabolism of medications. Typically, a response to the common medications used to treat anxiety and depression is about 4-6 weeks (think sertraline or escitalopram). There are medications that produce nearly immediate effects, such as alprazolam, that may be used in acute situations.

Q: My friend is taking a medication and it works great for her. Do you think it will work for me too?
A: Maybe! Each person experiences a response and/or side effects of medications at varying degrees. Letting your provider know if an immediate family member (oh, genetics!) has had a particularly positive or negative interaction with a specific medication may be helpful in determining which class of medication may work best for you. Sometimes more than one medication may be beneficial in controlling symptoms. Never share medications! Some pharmacological agents may interact toxically with other medications and can cause severe harm.

Q: I am feeling so much better! Do I have to continue taking my medications?
A: As your provider I will make pharmacological recommendations and provide you up-to-date medication education, but taking medications is your choice. It is important to never stop taking a medication without consulting with your provider. Some medications may require a tapering down of the dosage before stopping completely to avoid experiencing discontinuation syndrome (this varies by medication and total dosage). Some psychiatric conditions do not warrant lifelong medication administration, but some do. Helping you to fully understand your diagnosis and how your medications work is one of the goals I hope to meet during each session together.

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1330 U St. NW (Third Floor)

Washington, DC 20009

202-888-5595

info@capitalpsychotherapy.com

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