Medication for Mental Health Problems

Medications are used to treat cases of severe mental health problems and their symptoms which can often be long-term troubles for the patient and his family. In most cases, medicine and therapy are used in combination for the best results for treatment.


For some, medication or drugs are temporary solutions which relieve them of their pains immediately. For some, medication or drugs are long-term treatments which help them live and endure their severe mental problems. For some patients, they cannot stay on medication for long while some of the patients benefit from staying on medication because it prevents readmission to the hospital and relapses.

Some patients are very reluctant to take drugs or medication. Doctors also vary from the drugs that they prescribe their patients. Almost all kinds of medication and treatment have placebo effect and a number of drug trials were shown to have found slight difference between the effectiveness of the active and placebo drugs.

Taking medication is far easier to administer than getting involved in talk therapies and exercise programs. But medications have potential side effects and more problems arise when the patient comes off their medication. On the hand, abuse of medication can also present more problems for the patient. 

Drug categories

There are so many treatments and medications available for mental health problems. This is because there are many new drugs being introduced in the market yearly. Aside from this, drugs can be known for a lot of different names like according to their trade name, generic name or their chemical group name.

  • Trade names are the given brand names for the drugs by their manufacturers. Every company has a different trade name for just one drug.  
  • Generic names describe a specific chemical family where the drug comes from. For example, Nitrazepam is a drug used for insomnia. This drug is traded with names like Mogadon.  
  • A chemical group name explains a larger chemical group which the drug comes from. As an example, Nitrazepam comes from benzodiazepines. This is a group which treats anxiety and insomnia. Examples of drugs which also come from this group are temazepam (Planpak) and diazepam (Valium).

Majority of the drugs that are being used to treat mental health problems are classified into four categories: anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic drugs.

Prescribing medication

Before prescribing anything, the doctor has the following things to consider before deciding on what drug he gives his patient: 

  • Symptoms. Majority of drugs are used to treat specific symptoms like depression and anxiety.
  • The patient’s sensitivity and reaction to a class of drugs or to a drug. Drugs may work more effectively on others and it takes time to find the perfect treatment or drugs for a particular patient. The doctor should review and monitor all the drugs that he has prescribed you. This is helpful in controlling the side-effects and symptoms of the drugs, should there be any.
  • The side-effects associated with the drug.  Majority of drugs have little or severe side effects. As an example, the drug Lithium is toxic to some patients but it is used to treat bipolar disorder. Knowing the risks with a specific drug is important. Should the patient notice any discomfort or side effects of the drug that he is taking, tell the doctor immediately.
  • The doctor’s familiarity with the drug. A lot of doctors base their prescription according to their experience with the drug. 
  • The drug as being cost effectiveness. A majority of doctors always follow the set guidelines of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. This institute also provides the information on its website: National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

Questions to ask

It is helpful to ask these following questions should your doctor prescribe you with any medication:

  • What does this drug treat? What does it do? Remember that some drugs may counteract side effects of some other drugs. 
  • How long does the drug take effect? It takes several weeks or longer for some drugs to show some results.
  • Are there side effects? A lot of drugs have severe side effects.
  • How long should I take the drug? Some drugs are not supposed to be taken for more than a couple of weeks while some have to be taken for years or months. 
  • Should I proceed with caution? Some drugs are not to be taken while doing some activities like driving. Some drugs are also not to be taken with other drugs. 
  • Are there alternatives to treat my case? Are they effective? Talk therapies, exercise and complementary therapies are the alternatives which the patient could consider.

Find out more about specific drugs, side effects and correct dosage from your doctor, chemist, hospital department or pharmacy. Ask your mental health team or psychiatrist as well.