Medication, Side Effects, and Talking with Your Psychiatrist

This can be a tough situation. Your psychiatrist has your best interest at heart, but chances are, he will stick you on something without a word about its side effects.

Medication is a balance between medication efficiency and side effects. In modern medicine you have so many different medications available — each with its own side effect profile — to treat the same disorder. You psychiatrist will likely prescribe the most effective one regardless of side effects, but news flash, it won’t be too effective if you refuse to take it! It’s time to speak up and find the balance.

On one side of the scale, doctors completely ignore severe side effects. I had a psychiatric nurse practitioner prescribe me olanzapine (Zyprexa). This particular drug causes extreme weight gain, and I put on forty pounds in two months. Did she tell me that? No. This nurse intentionally withheld that information from me.

Eventually, I reached a point where I couldn’t take the weight gain anymore. I stuck it out for so long because of the agony my disorder caused. I started a dialogue with her about it, and she said lurasidone (Latuda) was weight-neutral. She didn’t even consider it because it was expensive. I wish she had because my insurance covered almost the entire cost. I gained forty pounds overnight for no reason. So long as my meds worked, my nurse didn’t care what side effects I had to go through.

When you speak to your psychiatrist, don’t be afraid to ask what the side effects of your medication are. You have a right to know. Medication doesn’t help if you refuse to take it. Find the right balance.

Now on the opposite side of the spectrum, doctors forego more effective medication for drugs with small side effect profiles. My brother’s doctor prescribed him a drug because it had a very low side effect profile. That, however, did not offset the lack of efficiency my brother experienced with the drug. My brother would have preferred a drug that would give him more results, even if that meant more side effects.

There is no one-size-fits-all in medication. Have a frank conversation with your doctor about your medicine, and you can get the medication that works best for you.

By Bryce R. Hostetler

An author and college graduate, Bryce didn't let his bipolar disorder keep him down. He enjoys lifting weights and running to stay active. He tries to read every day and at least a book a month. He's writing out of the United States in a small state called Arkansas.

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