Medications can help your patients with a variety of psychiatric issues and can help ease withdrawal symptoms during medically supervised detoxification. Your patients can also use medications throughout the first few months or years of rehab if they struggle with intense cravings and are at a higher risk of relapse. However, patients might be concerned about taking medications due to side effects and the desire to recover naturally without medicine. 

Being Open and Honest About Medications

You want to be transparent and open about why you are recommending a prescription. There are many misconceptions about psychiatric medications that could cause your patients to resist taking pills. Give your patient the time and attention needed to understand why you are recommending medications. Remember that all you can do is provide information and guidance. Your patient has the right to refuse medications and direct their treatment path.

Allow your patients the time to ask any questions or address concerns with you. If you don’t have an answer for them, direct them to someone who does or provide materials for them to review on their own. Always empower your patient to make the best choices for themselves throughout their recovery. 

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Why Might Patients Be Hesitant About Medications?

Your patients could have valid concerns about medications. They could also be misinformed or misguided about the recovery process. Each person has unique needs in their recovery. Some patients could benefit from medications, while others might find alternative paths to recovery. 

Common concerns you might hear from your patients include:

“Will I Be On This Medication Forever?”

Some psychiatric disorders, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, might require lifelong prescriptions to ease symptoms. For mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or panic attacks, medications might be used while learning coping skills to manage symptoms without prescriptions or as needed for intense episodes.

During detox for opioid addiction treatment, your patient might take medications to provide comfort for severe withdrawal symptoms. They could also use prescriptions like methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine for months or years into early recovery to prevent a relapse or overdose.

“Am I Replacing One Substance for Another?”

Patients who used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate for underlying mental health issues might feel like they are now replacing one substance for another. Remind your patients that prescription medications require oversight and monitoring by a mental health professional and that mental health issues, like physical health problems, can be treated with prescriptions.

Patients using medications to curb cravings long after drug rehab could feel that they are now substituting an illegal drug with a prescription. You can remind your patients of the safety of prescriptions for withdrawal and how FDA-approved medications can help prevent an overdose.

“Isn’t It Better to Quit Naturally?”

Many patients want to quit drugs and alcohol naturally without using medications. Each patient needs to decide the best treatment for themselves. All you can do is remind them of the benefits of using medications and other interventions to help with withdrawal and mental health issues.

“Won’t the Side Effects Make Me Feel Just as Badly?”

Be honest about the potential side effects of any medications. Some prescriptions could have side effects that go away within a few weeks as the body adjusts. Remind your patient that there are different medications available for similar disorders. They can talk to their physician about adverse side effects to try new prescriptions that might work better for them. Patients should always weigh the costs and benefits before taking psychiatric drugs.

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Other Key Points About Medications

You should also keep these additional points about medications in mind when talking to your patients:

  • Titration: Your patient might not understand the term “titration” when talking about prescriptions. Be thorough about the process of titration and let your patient know timetables for how long they will take their current dose before gradually decreasing medications. 
  • Taking medications even when you feel good: For patients with mental health issues, they might start to feel good after a few weeks and stop taking their prescriptions. They could then notice a return of symptoms after the medications fade from their system. Remind patients that psychiatric medicines usually need to be maintained at a therapeutic level to be effective. If they suddenly stop taking their prescriptions, they could experience side effects, or symptoms could come back.
  • Using medications when other treatment methods are ineffective: Medications are generally prescribed when non-medication interventions have not been effective. If your patient struggles with symptoms after rehab and therapy or continues to go in and out of a center for alcohol and drug treatment, they might need to try a new approach. 
  • Medications are just another tool — not a cure: Remind your patient that medications will not be a cure but can be a part of a comprehensive treatment program. When you combine medications with counseling, experiential therapy, and peer support, medications are just another component of treatment.

When your patients take medications during mental health and addiction recovery, they might have questions or concerns about this treatment approach. Most patients do not want to take prescriptions forever, and they could be hesitant to start taking medications. Always be honest about the potential side effects and the benefits of prescriptions. If your patient is apprehensive about medications, remember that all you can do is provide information and guidance. They decide their preferred course of treatment while you are giving them options. Medications will not be a cure for all symptoms of mental health and addiction. Your patients could benefit from medicines if other treatments have not been effective. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand that each patient needs to make informed decisions about their treatment plan and ongoing recovery. If you or your patient has questions about mental health treatment options and treatment programs in Hawaii, call us today at (866) 390-5070.

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