Medicine for Schizophrenia: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Medicine is the best treatment for schizophrenia. But it can be hard to take the medicine. This may be because:

  • You have severe side effects.
  • You don't believe you are ill.
  • You feel better. You may 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. Taking medicine every day reminds you.

But if you stop taking your medicine, you probably will have a relapse. A relapse means your symptoms return or get worse after you have been feeling better.

As long as you are taking medicines, you will need to see your doctor on a regular basis. You may need to go to a hospital while you are changing or stopping medicines.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What medicines are used for schizophrenia?

Many types of medicines can help you. It might be best to use more than one, but it may take time to find which medicines work well for you. This may be frustrating. But your doctor and family can support you during this time.

Medicines used most often include:

  • First-generation antipsychotics. Examples are chlorpromazine, haloperidol, and perphenazine. They are used to reduce anxiety and agitation. They also keep you from hearing or seeing things that aren't there (hallucinations) and from believing things that aren't true (delusions).
  • Second-generation antipsychotics. Examples are aripiprazole (Abilify) and risperidone (Risperdal). These medicines keep you from hearing or seeing things that aren't there (hallucinations) and from believing things that aren't true (delusions). They also help the negative symptoms, like not caring about things or finding it hard to say how you feel. These medicines may have fewer side effects than first-generation medicines..

These medicines sometimes have severe side effects. Always talk to your doctor about how they are working and how you are feeling. If you feel that a medicine isn't right for you, your doctor can help you find a new one. Don't stop taking your medicines unless you talk to your doctor.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Take your medicine

  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • If you are having trouble taking your medicines or feel you don't need to take them, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to change the medicine or the amount you take.

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.
    • If you don't show up for your shot, your doctor knows right away.
    • The medicine stays in your body longer. 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.

Have a routine

  • Make a schedule for taking your medicines. 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.
  • Keep the number for a suicide crisis centre on or near your phone. To find a suicide prevention crisis centre in your province, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention webpage at http://suicideprevention.ca/need-help.

Use a pillbox

  • Use a plastic pillbox with dividers for each day's medicines. It can have a few or many compartments. 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.
  • Keep one pill in its original bottle. Then if you forget what a pill is for, you can find the bottle it came from.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are thinking about suicide or are threatening suicide.
  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You hear voices that tell you to hurt yourself or someone else or to do something illegal, such as destroy property or steal.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You show warning signs of suicide, such as talking about death or spending long periods of time alone.
  • You hear voices.
  • You think someone is trying to harm you.
  • You cannot concentrate or are easily confused.
  • You are drinking a lot of alcohol or using illegal drugs.
  • You have a hard time taking care of basic needs, such as grooming.
  • You have signs of neuroleptic malignant syndrome, a side effect of a medicine you may be taking. Signs include:
    • A fever of 38.9°C to 39.4°C.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • Rapid breathing.
    • Severe sweating.
  • You have signs of tardive dyskinesia, a side effect of a medicine you may be taking. These include:
    • Lip-smacking or continuous chewing.
    • Tongue-twitching or thrusting the tongue out of the mouth.
    • Quick and jerky movements (tics) of the head.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms come back or are getting worse after you have been getting better.
  • You cannot go to your counselling sessions.
  • You are not taking your medicines or you are thinking about not taking them.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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