How to Stick With Your Schizophrenia Meds

Medication doesn’t cure schizophrenia, but it’s a vital part of any treatment plan because it can lessen many of the primary psychotic symptoms. So if you or someone you care about has schizophrenia, it’s important to know the role medication plays and why it helps you get the most out of treatment.

What Happens When You Stop Taking Your Meds

When you have schizophrenia, drugs like antipsychotics will likely be an important aspect of your treatment. You have some serious problems if you go off the meds your doctor has prescribed without their help.

One of the first things that can happen if you stop taking your prescription is symptoms of withdrawal. That means it can cause a bad reaction to your body when you quit taking them. This is especially true if you do it “cold turkey.” These symptoms may include:

So if the time comes for you to cut down on or stop taking a drug, you can avoid a bad reaction if you cut back gradually.

But a more serious issue that can come with stopping your drug treatment too suddenly is that it makes it more likely that your symptoms will come back. All of this can actually make your schizophrenia get worse faster.

Why People Stop Taking Their Meds

You might wonder why people stop their therapy if it can cause so many problems. But the reality is that many people with schizophrenia do not stick with their prescriptions, whether on purpose or by accident. In fact, a recent survey found that less than half of people living with schizophrenia continue to take their prescriptions.

One of the common reasons people might stop taking their meds is that they can cause serious side effects, like:

  • Tiredness or a lack of energy
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements
  • Weight gain
  • Problems with sex

If you or your loved one has a hard time living with these symptoms, bring them up with your doctor. They can help you figure out a solution.

Many people with schizophrenia may quit taking their meds when their symptoms lessen because they think they no longer need to take them. For some, their symptoms of schizophrenia cause them to be so disorganized that they cannot maintain the routine of taking medications regularly. Or some may be in denial or unaware of their need for drug therapy. In fact, 55% of people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia avoid taking prescribed drugs because they don’t believe they’re sick. This is called anosognosia.

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Tips for Sticking With Your Meds

Whether you’re trying to stay on track with your own medication or helping a loved one take theirs, there are several strategies you can use to manage and track the medicines your doctor prescribes.

Here are a few tips to help you stick with your meds:

  • If you have trouble remembering to take your daily dose, use tools like reminder apps, weekly pill boxes, or visible wall calendars.
  • Don’t mix them with other drugs or alcohol. This can be dangerous. Talk to your doctor if you have issues with any substances.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take some of your medications as a shot. These can last for a week or even a month, unlike pills you have to take every day.
  • Give your doctor a full list of the drugs and supplements that you take. This will help you avoid dangerous interactions.
  • Time your medications around their side effects and trade-offs. For example, if they make you tired and you find it hard to wake up in the morning, try to take them early in the evening. You might have less energy at night, but it’ll be easier to get out of bed the next day.
  • Use a mood-tracking mobile app or write in a diary or journal to record any changes in your symptoms, such as emotions and behavior, in response to your drug therapy.
  • If you care for someone with schizophrenia, don’t remind them over and over to take their medicine. Instead, set up a routine that everyone in your home follows to overcome forgetfulness together.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 22, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Mind: “Antipsychotics.”

Mayo Clinic: “Schizophrenia.”

Helpguide.org International: “Schizophrenia Treatment and Self-Help,” “Helping Someone with Schizophrenia.”

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists: “Helping someone with schizophrenia.”

SANE Australia: “Lived experience tips for managing schizophrenia.”

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH): “Antipsychotic Medications.”

Australian prescriber: “Stopping and switching antipsychotic drugs.”

Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology: “Adherence to Antipsychotic Medication in Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenic Patients.”

BMC Psychiatry: “Experiences of antipsychotic use in patients with early psychosis: a two-year follow-up study.”

Mental Illness Policy Org: “Causes of NonCompliance Among Seriously Mentally Ill.”

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