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When a Loved One Does Not Take Their Medication

Medication nonadherence, Psychiatric Medication Nonadherence Psychiatric Medication Nonadherence, Medication Management

When a patient follows the medication recommendations of their doctor, this is called medication adherence. In an ideal world, the doctor prescribes medication, and the patient follows through with purchasing the prescription, taking it as prescribed, and renewing it as needed. In reality, medication adherence rates are lower than they should be.

According to an article in U.S. Pharmacist, “adherence rates of 80% or more are needed for optimal therapeutic efficacy,” but actual adherence rates are more like 50%. Why does this matter? Because “Nonadherence can account for up to 50% of treatment failures, around 125,000 deaths, and up to 25% of hospitalizations each year in the United States.”

Why don’t more people take their medications as prescribed? For a variety of reasons, some of which may be beyond their control.

Unintentional Nonadherence

Some patients want to follow their prescription but end up off track. This can happen for several reasons:

  • Miscommunication with their providers about the treatment plan
  • Problems accessing prescriptions, perhaps due to cost or high demand
  • Problems remembering to take the medication

If you think a loved one is not taking their medication as prescribed, talk with them about these possible reasons. Maybe you can go with them to their next appointment and make sure you both understand the regimen the doctor is recommending. You may also be able to help your loved one pay for medications or handle insurance claims. Once your loved one has the medications they’ve been prescribed, help them come up with a system for remembering to take each dose at the correct time and in the correct manner (with or without food, for example).

Intentional Nonadherence

Sometimes patients have the capacity to follow their prescriptions but choose not to do so. The American Medical Association reviews the primary motivations for this kind of nonadherence.

  • Fear of side effects – this fear may come from the fine print on the label or from the stories a person has heard from friends who take the same medication
  • Feeling overwhelmed – when a person has too many medications, they can start to feel overwhelmed and choose to opt out of some of them
  • Lack of symptoms – if the patient doesn’t immediately notice improvement, or if they don’t fully understand how the medication is helping them, they may decide they no longer need to take it
  • Mistrust – patients may worry that their doctor is overprescribing medications just to get kickback from pharmaceutical companies; older patients may be especially prone to believing conspiracy theories or mistrusting doctors in general
  • Depression – people who suffer from depression are less likely to take their medications

If you believe your loved one is refusing to take medication based on any of the above reasons, talk with them and encourage them to talk with their doctor. Doctors should be aware of how many medications their patients are taking, and they may be able to help streamline the necessary medications so patients don’t feel so overwhelmed. Doctors can also explain how chronic medications work–that they take time to have an effect.

If your loved one is depressed or suffering from another mental health issue, remind them that they are not alone. You can also encourage them to reach out to a treatment center like Raleigh Oaks to address their depression in a holistic way.

Psychiatric Medication Nonadherence

While medication nonadherence for chronic illness affects at least half the population, nonadherence for those with psychiatric disorders is even higher. According to Psychiatric Times, “At least 61% of patients with schizophrenia, 57% of patients with bipolar disorder, and 52% of patients with depression had problems with adherence. Even with depot medications, many patients are treatment-nonadherent within one year.”

The danger of not taking medication for a psychiatric disorder is that the condition will worsen and could seriously affect quality of life and relationships with loved ones. At its worst, untreated psychiatric disorders could lead to self-harming behaviors and suicide.

Medication Management at Raleigh Oaks

Here at our facility in Garner, NC, we understand how worrying it can be to take medication. Anxieties about cost, access, side effects, and more can be difficult to navigate, but we can help. If you’re struggling with a mental health disorder, we can help. Our professional team will provide a thorough assessment, including a review of all current medications, and then work with you to adjust your medication schedule so that it works for you. We will help you manage the medications and understand why and how they benefit you. Contact our admissions team today to learn more.

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