Heartland Human Services

Psychotropic Medications


Tami Cornwell, RN

There are a number of medications used to treat mental disorders, depending on the diagnosis. It is very important to remember that while not all of the medications are habit forming, it is still very important that you do not suddenly stop taking your medications without speaking to your Doctor first. Usually, if Doctor agrees to stop the medication, it is slowly tapered down so that your body can adjust.
There is no cure for mental disorders, however; with the right medication, or in some instances a combination of medications, the disorder can be controlled and allow the person to function better. Medications are in a classification.  Meds used to treat Depression are called antidepressants; to treat Schizophrenia are classified as antipsychotics; to treat bipolar disease are mood stabilizers; and at times antidepressants and antipsychotics are used in combination.  For anxiety, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and beta-blockers are the most common medications used for anxiety disorders. ADHD is commonly treated with stimulants, such as: Methylphenidate, Amphetamine, Dextroamphetamine, Strattera and Vyvanse.

Children, the elderly and women who are pregnant or may become pregnant require closer monitoring when on psychotropic medications.  Children and adolescent’s bodies are still developing and many medications used to treat mental disorders have not been FDA approved or tested for children. The elderly attend to be more prone to more medical issues and take more medications, including herbal supplements, which can counteract with many medications not just psychotropic medications. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant need to be aware that certain antidepressants, while rare, can cause birth defects. Mood stabilizers are also known to cause birth defects. Women who are or may become pregnant need to report to their Doctor the moment they are aware that they are pregnant, especially if taking psychotropic medications. 

The effectiveness of a medication varies for each person. Some people may take psychotropic medications for a short time, while others may need it much longer.  There are a number of factors that can affect how medications work including the type of mental disorder that is diagnosed, diet, liver and kidney function, other medications that are being taken, age, sex and weight, habits such as smoking and alcohol ingestion, genetics and if medications are taken as prescribed or abused.
Once prescribed a medication or multiple medications, remember it is important to be open and honest with the provider on the side effects, if any are exerienced, and overall mental state while on the medication. Don’t get discouraged if symptoms haven’t improved within the first few weeks, it could take up to a month to know if the medication is helping. The provider may need to change or possibly add to current medication being taken to achieve the outlook expected.
While living with a mental disorder can be challenging, just know that there is help, with the proper medication and adjunct therapy, a productive life is achievable.

Psychologists advise those who have feelings of depression lasting more than two weeks to seek professional advice.  If you or a loved one are experiencing  any symptoms of depression, contact Heartland Human Services at 217-347-7179 or take a free screening at www.heartlandhs.org