Medications can be very helpful, especially if used in combination with other treatments such as individual psychotherapy or group therapy. Researchers believe that how the brain functions through the action of neurotransmitters, may result in emotional, physical, and mental symptoms. Taking medications that alter the action of neurotransmitters will improve symptoms that may be interfering with your daily functioning.
This handout is intended to provide information to help you decide whether this is the right time for you to take medications. It is important to respect your thoughts and feelings about taking a psychiatric medication. These thoughts and feelings will affect your experience of the medication.
There are many other sources of information on psychiatric medications, such as the internet, family and friends who have taken psychiatric medications, and primary care providers. Please gather information, read, and talk about psychiatric medications as much as possible. However, keep in mind that you are an individual and psychiatric medications produce unique effects in each person.
Considerations before Taking Medication
- Like other medications, psychiatric medication may take a few days or a few weeks to become fully effective.
- Remember that the most effective treatment is when you are also utilizing personal counseling along with your medication.
- Make sure to inform your physician or psychiatrist if you are taking any other over-the-counter or prescription medications, and any herbal remedies and/or taking alcohol or other drugs.
- Some of these may be extremely dangerous when used in combination with psychiatric medication, and/or may interfere with the performance of certain psychiatric medications.
Becoming a different person
- You will not be a “different” person once you start to take medicationÑthis is a myth! For example, most people who take antidepressants are happy to feel like themselves again.
- If you have been experiencing emotional difficulties for a long time, you may have trouble remembering what it's like not to feel that way. By contrast, you may find it unusual to experience happiness or pleasure.
Sign of weakness
- It is certainly not a sign of weakness to take medication or to be in therapy. As with any serious illness, dealing with your mental health takes great personal strength. Nonetheless, you may be exposed to negative attitudes about psychotherapy and psychiatric medications, which vary among individuals and cultures.
- Many students have found it helpful to take the perspective that medication and seeking help are forms of treatment, just as seeking a physician may be helpful to treat allergies, asthma, infections or diabetes. Although no one welcomes the presence of illness in their life, treatment such as psychotherapy and medication can serve to limit or eliminate the impact of illness, freeing you to direct your energy more fully toward your life goals.
Once you have decided to take medication, here are more questions to ask your psychiatrist/physician:
What symptom relief can you expect and when?
What should you do if you forget to take a dose?
Can you continue your routine activities while taking the medication?
Is there anything that you shouldn't be eating?
How often should you have follow-up appointments when taking that medication?
What side effects should you expect?
No medication is without side effects. But just as we take medication for pain, discomfort, and colds despite their side effects, it may also be a relief to take medication for potentially serious symptoms of mental illness.
Side effects vary from individual to individual and between medications. Consult with your physician or psychiatrist for more information.
What should you do if you have particularly adverse reactions to the medication (e.g., severe headaches, nausea, and vomiting, breathing difficulties, etc.)?
How long will you be on medication?
How do you discontinue (taper off) the drug?
Resources to Obtain Medications at Discount Prices
The campus Student Health Center
The Health Center Pharmacy fills prescriptions prescribed by licensed U.S. physicians. The cost of items purchased at the Pharmacy is at a reduced rate. Students who purchase the supplemental health insurance or have a private insurance may submit prescription receipts to their insurance for reimbursement. For more information, visit the Student Health Center Pharmacy website or call 408-924-6115.
Medicare: Information on public and private programs offering discounted or free medication, as well as explanation of Medicare health plans that include prescription drug coverage. Visit the Medicare MPDPF Supporting Information website or call 800-633-4227 and ask an operator for details.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance or call 888-477-2669
To better understand what drugs your health plan does or doesn't cover, contact your insurer or check with the non-profit group Citizens for the Right to Know at or call 866-785-6285
For low-income people without prescription drug coverage, go to The Medicine Program website or call 573-996-7300 for a free brochure an application (there is a $5 processing fee)
Come see a personal counseling in Counseling and Psychological Services in Student Wellness Center, third floor, Room 300B, for a referral to see a psychiatrist. If you are struggling with any mental health symptoms, your academics may be negatively impacted; we also have educational counselors who may help improve your educational performance. Please call 408-924-5910 for more information.