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Medication: Risks versus Benefits


Talk To Your Doc

You may have been told that you have Bipolar Disorder. You may have also been told that you should be seeing a psychiatrist regularly and taking psychiatrist prescribed psychotropic medication to help you balance your moods. You may have also been told about many possible side effects and possible strain on your liver and kidneys. This may cause you to worry. The desire to use medication to balance mood, and the fear that medication might not be healthy in the long term often causes individuals with bipolar to wonder if they should take medications as prescribed.

Three Things to Do: Do these before your next doctor visit:

1. Keep a journal or calendar tracking your moods.

2. Read as much as you can about Bipolar from credible sources.

3. Write down a list of questions that you will take with you to your visit.

Four Things to Discuss: Talk to your doctor during your next visit (write these down on your list that you are bringing to your next visit:

1. Risk Versus Benefits of the taking the medications that the doctor is suggesting.

2. What can be done to decrease the physiological effects of taking medication over many years and how to keep all organs (including the liver and kidney) healthy.

3. Review the alternatives to traditional medication with your medical doctor. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, he or she might present alternatives. If not, then it is because the doctor’s opinion is that you require psychotropic medication to keep your moods balanced, and you should follow your doctor’s orders.

4. Bring a list of everything you are taking; including other medications, herbal supplements, and vitamins. You will want to share this with your doctor so that he/she can tell you if there will be any problems with combining the prescribed psychotropic medications with your current medications and other supplements.

Five Things to Do: After the visit, do these five things:

1. Follow your doctor’s orders and take the medications as prescribed, even if you are having second thoughts. You will be able to discuss those second thoughts with your doctor during your next visit. If you are feeling extra anxious about things, make a follow up appointment sooner than later.

2. Continue to track your moods. This will tell you if the medications, and/or regimen prescribed is effective. Somewhere around the third or fourth week, you should notice that you are feeling better and more balanced. Give it at least a month before you judge this. It usually takes at least three weeks before side effects go away, and it often takes that long before you experience how you will feel and function with the prescribed medication and regimen.

3. Note any side effects and schedule an appointment with your doctor if you experience any serious side effects. Your pharmacist will provide you a list of potential side effects and will also provide you with a consultation so that you know which ones to worry about should they occur, and which ones are likely temporary. Remember, only some people experience side effects, you may not experience any side effects at all.

4. If you do not agree with your doctor, continue to follow your doctor’s orders, but schedule a second opinion with another doctor and review everything including all your original questions, your mood swings, risk versus benefits, possible alternatives and the risks versus benefits of using alternative methods of managing symptoms. Remember to discuss why you disagree with the first doctor as well. If you have seen three doctors, and you get the same or similar suggestions and recommendations, then you can be quite confident that you have found the best regimen for you. (Stay with the doctor that you like the best.)

5. Continue to see your doctor regularly without fail, and talk about you changing needs. Sometimes a certain medication regimen will work for awhile, and then it needs to be adjusted. Do not stop taking your medication; instead, make an appointment with your doctor and see if and how the medication can be adjusted.

Some things to keep in mind:

If you have recent experiences of mania or severe depression, the risks of not taking medication are usually great; and the benefits of taking prescribed medication usually outweigh the risks of taking the medication. In the next few blogs we will talk about side effects of medication; when, how, or if you should stop taking psychotropic medications.

Remember, different medication regimens will work better for some people than others. The reason why you will make visiting your psychiatrist a routine part of life is because you want a specialized treatment plan that works specifically for you. If you have bipolar disorder, you may need to take medications for a very long time. By working closely with your psychiatrist, you will also be able to talk about your physical health and ways to maintain optimal physical health by using healthy methods to cleanse your liver and keep your kidneys and other organs healthy. A healthy body will contribute a great deal toward your mental health.

Medication: Risks versus Benefits

Dr. Barbara Bachmeier

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APA Reference
Bachmeier, D. (2015). Medication: Risks versus Benefits. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 13 Mar 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Mar 2015
Published on All rights reserved.