When a healthcare professional prescribes a treatment there is always a reason for doing so. For instance, if antibiotics are prescribed to treat an infection caused by bacteria, it is important to take all of the medication as directed for them to work as they should. Some medications and some illnesses only require short-term treatment. Other illnesses may require longer-term treatment, meaning that someone needs to take medication regularly for much longer; sometimes for many years or even for the rest of their lives. For example, a person receiving medication for diabetes will likely need to take medication for the rest of their lives; people who have had an organ transplant have to take medication to stop their body rejecting their new organ for many, many years; and some illnesses that affect the mind, for example schizophrenia, can also mean having to take treatment for a long period of time.
Although all these illnesses are different, each one shows how taking medication in the long-term is needed. And, most importantly, taking medication regularly as prescribed, whether for your physical or mental health, can help you get well, stay well, and enjoy living your life.
If you are living with schizophrenia, your healthcare professional will most likely prescribe an antipsychotic treatment for you. This may be a short-acting formulation taken every day, for example oral daily medication such as tablets or a liquid. Some short-acting formulations are also administered by injection, but this is usually only for a short period of time. Or you may be prescribed a long-acting formulation that needs to be administered less regularly, e.g. every two weeks, once a month or every three months. These long-acting formulations are sometimes referred to as ‘injectable medication’. Whatever type of treatment you are prescribed, it is important that you take it exactly as your psychiatrist has told you to.
As with any condition that requires treatment, remembering to take your medication, or to prioritise attending appointments for medication administration, is not easy. But taking, or receiving your medication as recommended is an important part of keeping well, and reducing the risk of you experiencing a relapse of schizophrenia.
If you have recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia, or are taking a new medication, it may not be easy to remember to take it regularly. Don’t worry though – there are some practical things that you can do to help you ensure that you do not miss a dose or run out of medication.
If you have been prescribed your medication in a daily 'oral' form, you will need to collect it from a pharmacy using a prescription given to you by your healthcare professional. It is important to collect your prescription on time so that you do not run out of your medicine. You can ask your healthcare professional or pharmacist if there are any available services, or solutions that can make remembering to pick up your prescription easier. Some pharmacies may even deliver the medicines to you so you don’t have to go and collect them yourself. If there is no prescription request or delivery service in your area, you will need to find a way to remember to request a repeat prescription and collect your treatment option that works for you. This could be as simple as using a diary or wall planner to remind you, or you could use the calendar on your phone or computer to set an electronic reminder.
Once you have your medication it could be a good time to think of things you could do to remind you to take it regularly as prescribed. You could make it part of your daily routine; for example, when you prepare your breakfast. If you find it hard remembering whether or not you have taken your medicine, a pill organiser could be a useful approach. Pill organisers are simply a box with sections for every day of the week. You fill the box, usually once a week, with the medicines you need to take. The box can remind you to take your medication, and if you cannot remember whether you have taken your daily pill or not, all you need to do is look at the box and see if the tablets for the given day are still there or not. Some pharmacies can even give you your tablets in a pill organiser.
If you are receiving your medication by injection, your routine is different, as you will not have to take them daily. You may still need to remember to get a prescription from your healthcare professional and take it to the pharmacy to collect your medicine, but there may be a local service where a nurse can come and visit you at home. Regardless, you will need to remember your appointments for your medication administration as this will always be done by a healthcare professional. As with oral treatments there are simple ways to remind yourself e.g. set reminders in your phone, write it in your diary or ask your friends and family to remind you. Perhaps you could combine your administration appointment with another social engagement, like meeting a friend for a coffee?
If you have any questions about your current treatment, or if you are not satisfied with it, you should talk to your mental health nurse or other healthcare professional about the options that are available. Remember though, you should not stop taking your medication without first speaking with your healthcare professional.