The Side Effect Scale: Weighing the Importance of Pills

Anyone who has ever been on a medication before probably knows the struggle of dealing with an annoying side effect. Maybe it’s a dry mouth or an upset stomach. But what happens when those side effects are so severe you don’t want to take your medication anymore?

Med Compliance: A Real Problem

This is a problem that is very real to the mental health community. Reasons for non-adherence of a medication regimen vary from person to person, with side effects making the top five list. It’s no fun to experience side effects, even if your mood does improve with the meds.

It can also be embarrassing if the side effects are noticeable to other people. One of my medications causes extra saliva. Believe me it’s not pretty. While this is a minor annoyance, explaining to your peers why you just drooled all over you art project is not fun.

When Side Effects Pushed me to Quit Cold Turkey

The extra saliva is such a minor issue compared to side effects of other drugs I’ve been on. One medicine made me feel off. That’s the best way I can describe it. My moods were a mess and I didn’t feel like myself. So, I stopped taking my pills.

Yes, I’ve quit a medication cold turkey before. Not smart, I know. It’s a very risky move. If you want off your meds, always educate yourself and check with your doctor first).

While I started to feel better a few weeks later with no noticeable withdrawal symptoms, this wasn’t a good plan on my part. That’s really the only time my laid-back doctor was ever upset with me.

When you have a serious mental health condition, meds can be life changing and life-saving. When you stop taking your meds so abruptly, it can set you back and can be dangerous.

Medications Exist for a Reason

I’ve had numerous people question if I should be on meds. There will always be people who think exercise, or prayer, or natural health remedies will be enough for someone struggling with mental illness. And maybe for some people they are.

But the vast majority of us need prescription medications to control our conditions. We need those pills to function. It is like any other medical condition.

Society doesn’t question chemo for cancer or statins for heart disease. Why does our culture look down on anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and other medicines to treat conditions of the brain?

Sometimes I picture a life where I don’t have to lug my gallon sized Ziplock bag filled with prescription meds and supplements wherever I go. But then I remember how my life looked when I wasn’t on my meds.

I was a disaster. I started hearing voices and became paranoid. And even though my current medications have some minor side effects, I will happily take a stable life over no pills.

When Side Effects are too Much

Sometimes side effects truly are too much. I once gained forty pounds in a couple months. This was as a child. And although the medicine was improving my mood, the excessive weight gain was unhealthy.

I had to be switched to another medication under my doctor’s supervision. If you feel like the side effect are negatively impacting your life, you should have a conversation with your doctor.

What to Take… Away

I understand the problems people experience when on meds. But in the end, meds help me. In fact, the right meds have helped countless people live normal lives that otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

Side effects aren’t fun but if they are minor, the benefits of the medication will outweigh the downfalls. And if they are major, maybe it is time to talk with your doctor about other options.

Just remember, don’t quit cold turkey! Taking pills for the rest of your life may not be what you want, but it might just be what you need.

Written by Katelyn Hamil

Katelyn Marie Hamil is a freelance writer for hire who specializes in writing about mental health and spirituality. She is a recent graduate of Mount Marty College. You can find more about her at her website or connect with her on Twitter @HamilKatelyn.

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