Medication Issues

Things You Should Tell Your Doctor

Before Prescribing Treatment

Before prescribing a course of treatment, your doctor should obtain your complete medical history. That will be the basis for your unique treatment plan. Additionally, to ensure that the symptoms are not the result of some other illness, your doctor may order some lab tests.



It is important to inform your doctor of your use of other prescription medications and over-the counter drugs. With this information, your doctor will attempt to avoid possible drug interactions between the mood stabilizer medication and your other commonly used medications. Be sure to tell your doctor of all medications you are taking. This includes medications such as birth control pills, antacids, and aspirin.


Your doctor will also want to know if you are currently pregnant or plan to become pregnant. This information is important because mood stabilizers can have an effect on your baby’s development. They may also be able to affect your newborn if you breastfeed him or her while on medication.

Alcohol and Drug Use

Alcohol and illegal drugs can complicate both clinical depression and its treatment. That is why alcohol and drug usage is crucial information for your doctor to have. Both can mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder as well as make your symptoms worse. They can also make mood stabilizer side effects much worse, and decrease the effectiveness of your medication. To avoid making your bipolar disorder worse, and to avoid negative interactions between your mood stabilizer medication and alcohol or drugs, you should refrain from both while you are being treated.


The doctor will want to know if and how much you smoke because smoking can make your body use up your mood stabilizer medication faster than it should. Your doctor will want to know about this so that your dosage can be adjusted to stay in your system longer. And of course, smoking causes cancer, results in smaller babies if you are pregnant, and is harmful to your health. Your doctor can help you break the habit.

Ways to Remember to Take Medication

Use an Alarm Clock or Watch.


You can set a watch alarm or an alarm clock for the right time to take your medication. You can use this method along with the pillbox method.

Use a Pillbox.

Pillboxes are an easy way to keep track of your dosing. At the beginning of the week, put one day’s dose in each compartment. Then on each day, you can take your pills out of that compartment. You can get a pillbox at any drug store or grocery store for just a couple of dollars.

Use a Calendar.


Calendars are another easy way to keep track of your doses. As you take each dose, cross off that day in your calendar. If you are taking more than one dose per day, simply write down each dose time on every day’s space. Then cross off the time as you take your pill. This also works well together with the alarm method.

Depot Medications


Even with helpful hints like pillboxes and calendars, some people have trouble staying on their medications because it is hard to remember to take pills.

There is an alternative if you are having trouble remembering to take your medications. Some people prefer to have their medication by injection when they visit their doctors on a regular basis. Unfortuntaely, this alternative is only available for people taking antipsychotic medications. Those medications include Haldol and Prolixin. Taking medication by injection seems to work well for a lot of people. Those medicines are called “Depot medications.” If you ever have trouble taking your meds, ask your doctor if Depot medications will work for you.

Common Questions About Taking Your Medications

The following are some common questions about taking medication and the typical answer. The answer for you, your illness, and your medication may be different.

Please discuss any issue related to taking your medications with your doctor.

Can I take an extra dose if it looks like I need it?

Not without talking to your doctor first. Your doctor and you have decided on the current course of treatment including the dose. Extra doses can make you feel worse, not better and be risky. Discuss your concern with you doctor and you both may decide that the current dose is not acceptable. Remember you and your doctor are working together – communication is key to full recovery.

What if I’m late taking a dose?

A common recommendation is the following: If you forget to take a dose, and it’s been less than six hours since you missed it, it’s usually okay to take it when you remember. But, if it’s been longer than six hours since you missed it, you shouldn’t take it at all. You should just take your next dose at the regular time. You should not take a double dose.

These instructions can vary for your specific situation. Ask you doctor if the above applies for you. And check out our ideas on remembering to take your medication.

What if I miss a dose entirely?

Missing one does typically isn’t a problem because medications build up in your system, and there’s still some there to carry you over until your next dose. Most doctors recommend you take regular dose -not a double one- during your regular time the next day. Please note that this is not true for all medications, especially birth control pills – check with your doctor!

Your doctor will have some ideas about how to make sure you remember to take your medications right.

What if I take two pills at once by accident?

If you take two pills at once by accident, this is uaually not a problem, you can usually take your next pill at the regular time. Most doctors do not recommend skipping the next dose. But discuss this problem with your doctor.

Repeatedly taking extra doses can lead to problems. Talk to your doctor about the problem and review our ideas about how to help you take your medication.

What about over the counter medicines?

Your doctor should know all of the medicines you are taking – including ordinary ones you can buy without a prescription. For example, non-strroidal anti-inflammatories such as Advil can reduce the rate at which the body gets rid of Lithium, possibly leading to overly high levels of Lithium in the blood. Talk to your doctor before taking any over the counter medicines. He/she will know which ones are safe to take with all of your medication that you are currently on.