Barriers to Taking Medication

1. Forgetting

Forgetting medication doses is a problem for 40% of people with any illness.

Persons who develop psychosis often also experience problems with attention, memory and other cognitive abilities. 

It can help to have cues to remember when to take the medication, i.e., taking it regularly with meals or after brushing your teeth.

Family or a friend can also help with a gentle reminder.

You can get a pillbox or a dosette, or request a blister pack from the pharmacy that is clearly labeled with dates and times.

Setting a timer on your watch alarm or on your mobile phone is another way to remember.

A simpler medication schedule may be helpful, for instance, taking medication only once a day rather than 3 times a day.  Ask your physician about this possibility.

Certain medications are available in an injection; these can be administered at intervals of up to one month depending on the particular drug. This could mean reducing the number of times you need to take a medication from 730 doses (twice a day schedule) to as few as 12 or 13 doses per year. Injections can also result in a reduction in some of the common side effects such as sedation.

2. Refusing

When I told the doctor about all the visions I was having, he told me I have something called psychosis. The doctor prescribed a drug. I thought everyone else thought I was crazy. I didn’t want to take the medication. I thought I was just fine without it. – Garnet, youth

Sometimes it seems as if illness takes away one’s autonomy or sense of freedom to make one’s own decisions. Sometimes refusing medicine may be a way to assert one’s autonomy. Unfortunately, this might result in delayed recovery or a relapse.

Educating yourself and becoming an expert on the nature and treatment of your illness in order to make the best choices will help you to be more in control. Understanding and communicating side effects is also crucial as they are often the reason why a person is reluctant to continue with the medication.

3. Reminder of Being Unwell

For some, the need to take medication and the act of taking medication serve as daily reminders that something is wrong.  Not taking the medication can be an attempt to free oneself from this constant reminder.  The logic can be this: “If I am OK then I don’t need to take pills so if I don’t take pills then I am OK”.  Unfortunately, the logic doesn’t work over the long term, not taking medication usually results in a return of the symptoms – and that is quite a reminder of the need for medication.