Making the decision to take medication for depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD or ADHD can be a little bit frightening.
Our philosophy on medications is that when they are needed, they can be very helpful.
However, we try to minimize their use, and to use the lowest dose possible.
For medications that are for short term use, we try to use them for as little time as possible.
When we address the other aspects that may be causing some of your issues (body, mind, heart and spirit), your symptoms may improve without medications. See more about our approach here.
Here are some of the common questions and answers about medication.
Q: Will taking medication change my personality?
A: I think the real question here is whether medication will change who you are as a person. I think there’s also concern that any changes from the medication might be irreversible.
To answer the first part of this, no, medications will not change who you are as a person. You will still be you. If we determine together that medications can help, it means that your brain neurochemistry needs to be optimized. When we find the right medication, you will likely feel “more yourself” than you have for a while.
Also, the effects of medication are not permanent. That’s why you have to keep taking the medication to have the effect. Most of the psychiatric medications leave your body completely within a few days. The longest leave your body completely in about 2 weeks.
Q: Will I have to be on medications forever if I start them?
A: It depends on what we are using the medication for and what illness we are treating with the medication.
ADHD medications, for example, are typically used throughout a person’s life. The benefits are significant for the medication and most clients who use the medication have no problem continuing it.
Medications for anxiety and sleep are usually shorter term until we can figure out the thoughts and feelings that are driving your anxiety and poor sleep.
Medications for depression are typically indicated for 1 year if there is only one “major depressive episode.” We can then have a trial off of medication.
For PTSD, medications are typically indicated to stabilize sleep and mood until appropriate therapy can be done. At that time, most clients do not continue to need medication.
If there have been more than one major depressive episode, the current literature recommends continuing the medication long term to help prevent relapse of major depressive episodes. Continuing medication reduces your risk of having another episode by about half. (see this article)
Q: What are the side effects of medication?
A: This depends on the medication. A good website to research common side effects is drugs.com.
However, you should know that any medication can produce any side effect. Make sure to let us know of any side effects you experience.
It is also important to let me know any and all medications and supplements you are taking so we can check for any potential interactions.
For some psychiatric medications, particularly antidepressants, you may feel some of the side effects before the positive effects take place.
It’s important to stay on the medication during this time, as the benefits of the medication are on their way.
Q: How long does it take the medication to work?
A: For ADHD, anxiety and sleep medications, you can start feeling the positive effects right away.
For antidepressants, we usually expect some positive effect within 2 weeks, though the full positive effect may take up to 6 weeks.
Q: Are medications addictive?
A: Some sleep medications and many anti-anxiety medications are addictive. These medications (benzodiazepines like ativan, xanax, restoril and valium and sleep medications like Ambien) are intended for short term use only when anxiety or poor sleep is overwhelming.
Other medications for sleep and anxiety (trazodone, gabapentin, buspirone, propranolol) are not addictive, and are the medications we prefer to use whenever possible.
Antidepressant medications are not addictive, and are also used for anxiety with good effect.
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