Taking Medicines for Schizophrenia

Overview

Always take your medicine the way your doctor has suggested.

Medicine is the most effective treatment for schizophrenia, but sometimes people who have schizophrenia have a hard time taking their medicine. If you have trouble taking your medicine, it may be because:

  • You have severe side effects.
  • You don't believe you are ill.
  • You feel better and think you no longer need medicine.
  • You forget to take your medicine. This might be because of confused thinking or depression.
  • You have a drug or alcohol problem that gets in the way.
  • You don't want to be reminded that you have a mental health problem, and taking medicine every day reminds you.

If you stop taking your medicine, you probably will have a relapse. If you are having trouble taking your medicine or feel you don't need to take it, talk to your doctor or another trusted person. Your doctor may be able to change the medicine or the amount you take.

If you and your health care team decide you will stop using or will change medicines, your doctor will want to check in with you on a regular basis. You may need to go to a hospital while you are changing or stopping medicines.

Ask about long-acting medicines

Ask your doctor about long-acting medicines that are injected (shots). You get a shot every week or every few weeks. This may be a good choice because:

  • You have a set day and time to get the shot.
  • Your health care team knows right away if you don't take the medicine, because you don't show up for the shot.
  • The medicine from shots stays in your body longer, so if you are a little late for a shot, you have more time to get help before your symptoms return.
  • You are not reminded every day that you have a mental health problem.
  • You don't have to carry pills with you.

You also can get once-a-day pills. These generally are extended-release medicines, which release the medicine slowly.

Have a routine

  • If you need to take medicine every day, it helps to have a daily routine. Make a schedule for taking your medicines, and follow it every day.
  • Identify things you do every day at the same time, such as brushing your teeth. Use these activities to help remind you to take your medicines.
  • Set your watch alarm or a kitchen timer to remind you when to take your medicines. Or ask a family member to help you remember to take your medicines.

Use a pillbox

  • Use a plastic pillbox with dividers for each day’s medicines. There are many different types of pillboxes. Some are small with just a few compartments, some have many compartments, and some have timers you can program. Choose one that fits your needs.
  • Put your pillbox in a place where it will remind you to take your medicines. For example, if you need to take medicine 3 times a day with meals, put those medicines in a pillbox near where you eat.
  • If you use a pillbox, keep one pill in its original bottle. Then if you forget what a pill is for, you can find the bottle it came from.

Credits

Author Jeannette Curtis
Author Paul Lehnert
Editor Katy E. Magee, MA
Associate Editor Terrina Vail
Primary Medical Reviewer Steven L. Schneider, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Miklos Ferenc Losonczy, MD, PhD - Psychiatry
Specialist Medical Reviewer J. David Carroll, PhD - Psychology
Last Updated August 28, 2008

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