Tips for Managing Your Medications

Remembering to Take Your Medication

  • Pick a specific day and time each week to put your pills for the entire week in a medication organizer. Click here for examples. This will also help ensure that you do not accidentally take a double dose of medication.
  • Keep your pill box or organizer in a place where you will see it every day (e.g., on your dresser or next to your toothbrush).
  • Try to take your pills at the same time each day and pick a time when you are almost always home (for example, when you wake up in the morning or when you go to sleep at night).
  • Set automated reminders. You can set a daily alarm on your cell phone or computer. Many free online calendars allow you to set daily email or text message alerts (e.g., Google Calendar).
  • Keep a diary or checklist documenting the times when you took medication. If you have an i-Phone™, there may be applications available to help you track your medication.
  • Keep regular appointments with your care provider.
  • Psychotherapy is often helpful in not only treating psychiatric symptoms directly, but in helping people overcome the challenges of sticking to their medication schedule.
  • Carry a record of your medications with you by using our Medication Wallet Reminder Card.

Traveling

  • Leave a reminder note on your luggage to pack your medication.
  • At least one week before you leave town, make sure that you will have enough medication to last through your trip. If not, be sure to have your prescription refilled before leaving.
  • Be sure to take your insurance information and a phone number to reach your care provider.
  • If you are taking a medication that requires you to have blood drawn frequently, ask your care provider if you should have your blood work done before you leave.
  • If you are flying to your destination, always pack your medication in your carry-on luggage so it will be easily accessible, and to avoid being without your medication should your luggage be sent to the wrong destination.  

Long Breaks

  • If you are leaving campus for one month or longer (e.g., during Summer break), be sure that you will be able to fill your prescription while you are away.
  • Find a clinician in the area where you are traveling in case you need to go in for a visit while you are away.
  • Be sure to take your insurance information and a phone number to reach your care provider.
  • If you are studying abroad, locate a care provider with whom you can communicate easily in case you need a medication refill or for any emergencies.

Reactions & Side Effects

What you should know

  • Psychiatric medications sometimes come with unwanted side effects.
  • In most cases, side effects from psychiatric medications are mild and go away after a short time. But for some people, side effects can be more problematic and ongoing.
  • Side effects are most likely to occur within about two weeks of either starting a new medication or increasing the dosage.
  • The potential for side effects depends on many factors, including the kinds of medication you are taking, your metabolism and your lifestyle (such as the kinds of food you eat, the amount of sleep you get, etc.).
  • Sometimes it is difficult to know if what is being experienced is a side effect of medication or a symptom of your mental health disorder. For example, some people experience a loss of interest in sex when taking medications; but this change is also a symptom of many mental health disorders such as depression. You can work with your prescribing care provider to help distinguish between psychiatric symptoms and side effects.
  • It is extremely important to tell your care provider and pharmacist about all of the medications (prescription and non-prescription) you are taking so that they can look to see if there are any drug interactions that may result in unwanted side effects.   It is also important to tell your care provider and pharmacist if you begin taking any new medications so they can check for interactions with your psychiatric medications.

What to do if you develop side effects

  • Talk to your care provider. Don’t stop or adjust your medication on your own. Often your care provider can adjust your medication regimen in a way that reduces or eliminates your side effects.
  • There is typically more than one medication available to treat mental health disorders. If you are having trouble tolerating your medication, your care provider may be able to try different medications to find the one that’s right for you.
  • Often side effects are a temporary reaction to the medication, and go away once your body adjusts.
  • It can be helpful for both you and your care provider for you to keep a diary of your experiences, both good and bad, while taking your medication. You can use the following forms to help:
  • If you have questions about the side effects that may occur due to your psychiatric medications, or if you start experiencing new side effects from your medication, talk to your pharmacist or care provider.

When you Begin to Feel Better

  • People sometimes stop taking their medication once their symptoms improve without first consulting their care provider. But many psychiatric disorders are chronic problems that require ongoing treatment. Stopping your medication prematurely puts you at increased risk for having a relapse of symptoms. Always check with your prescribing doctor before stopping or adjusting your medication.
  • Remember: the goal of treatment is not just to make you feel better, but to keep you feeling better.

Paying for Prescriptions

  • Sometimes students don’t fill their prescriptions because they are concerned about the cost of psychiatric medications.
  • You may be able to save money by buying generic drugs rather than brand names. Generic prescriptions have the same active ingredients as brand name drugs but are often considerably less expensive. Some pharmacies (e.g., Target) have low-cost generic drug programs. If you are concerned about paying for medications, talk to your care provider about generic drugs.
  • Your pharmacist may also be able to help to find ways to pay for your medication.
  • It is also important to remember that treatment could save money in the long run. Untreated mental health conditions could lead to expensive medical visits, poor academic and job performance, and a prolonged academic career.
  • Visit the “Insurance and Paying for Mental Health Services” section of this website for more detailed information and tips.

Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs and alcohol come with risks for all users. But the risks may be much greater for individuals with mental health disorders and those taking psychiatric medications for the following reasons:

  • Drugs and alcohol can bring on symptoms of mental health disorders (such as anxiety, depression or mania), or can make existing symptoms worse.
  • People with mental health disorders are more likely than most people to develop alcohol and drug dependency problems.
  • Drugs and alcohol can have negative, and potentially dangerous, effects when combined with certain psychiatric medications. See the FDA website for more information about psychiatric medications and safety.
  • Drug and alcohol use can make treating or managing a mental health disorder much more difficult, even among people who have control over their drinking or drug use.

If you have a mental health disorder and/or are taking a psychiatric medication and there is any chance that you will be drinking or using drugs, please talk to your care provider about safety.

  • When talking to your care provider, be open and honest about your drug or alcohol use.
  • Remember, your care provider’s top priority is to help you stay healthy and safe, not to judge you.

 

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