Medication matters

Medication is probably a major part in many people’s management of their mental illness (I say probably as I was unable to find any clear statistics about the number of people on medication). It is in mine.

One of my medications is currently being reduced in order to try something new. Another new medication. I’ve tried many over the years, as I’m sure others do to. The problem I have is whether maybe our doctors are too ‘pill happy’ and whether they are overlooking other treatments in their quest to cure us.

Now let me be clear, I don’t think that medication is totally redundant in our treatment at all, quite the opposite really. I feel that medication shouldn’t be our only treatment. Medication, as part of a plan with other forms of treatment as well, I believe is very important. I do however also believe that it is our right to question the medications we take and ask for them to be changed if we feel there are effects from the medications that we are unhappy with.

I feel this is the right time to say also that no changes to your medication should be made without speaking to a doctor or professional first. We are not pharmacists on the whole and therefore this can be dangerous.

Now back to the point at hand, asking for changes to our medications and/or using medication in conjunction with other treatment options. Medication is one of many different treatments. There are many people who believe that medication alone cannot cure or aid recovery. This, as well as some of the major side effects caused by psychiatric medication, is a reason to look further afield for possible ways to ease your symptoms of mental illness.

A list of other possible therapies that could be of use either alongside or instead of drug therapy is exhaustive, but includes such things as mindfulness, access to talking therapies as well as possible alternative therapies. No one should be afraid to ask their medical professionals about these alternatives and no one should be discouraged from trying anything that could possibly benefit them, if it is safe for them to do so.

Often we are told or made to feel that medication is the only treatment available to us but this is simply not true. More often the problem is a lack of funding in our particular primary care trusts for certain therapies. This can be a real problem but does not mean we should suffer with medication as our only life line.

By asking for other alternatives we are taking control of our own recovery. This is important as we also need to be aware of what we are putting in our bodies and the effects it will have on us not only while taking it but also as we try to come off of it.

My personal experience of medication has been a bumpy ride. After trying numerous anti depressants, some of which only made my symptoms worse, I ended up on my current medication. This medication, Venlafaxine, has some awful side effects, especially if you are trying to come off of it or even if you miss a dose. I was never told how this medication, or to be more specific it’s withdrawal, would effect me. It was a nasty surprise when I missed a dose and ended up feeling physically unwell as a result. This led to a lengthy battle to persuade my psychiatrist to allow me to come off it. It also involved me having a battle to get other possible therapies that could help.

I was lucky. I had a very good friend to be my advocate. Without her I would probably still be on my high dosage off this drug and would never of gained access to the talking therapy that I ended up receiving. Instead I’m now nearly weaned from this drug and had a 16 week course of therapy with an offer of more in the future.

So here is my main message. Ask about your treatment options, or find an advocate who can for you. Medication may not be the only way to treat your illness and it is important you know all the weapons that are at your disposal. Again, medication may be an aid in your treatment, but it may also need something more to help in the battle.

For more information on different treatment options check out the links in the Useful Websites post. These sites have details on other possible treatments.

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