Nailing down the best medication and dosage for treating an illness or disorder is often based largely on trial and error. As such, you and your doctor may have many reasons for considering a medication change, depending on your condition and how you're responding to treatment. Being prepared with the right questions and observations can make any medication changes more streamlined and potentially more effective. Regardless of why you're making a switch, it's critical to continuously self-monitor and inform your doctor about any adverse changes you notice.
Why You Might Make a Medication Change
If you or your doctor are considering making changes to your medication regimen, you could be facing any one or more of these scenarios:
- Medication that is no longer working or helping
- Needing to increase or decrease your dosage
- Switching between generic and name brands (and vice versa)
- Changing to a different type or combination of active ingredients
- Adding another medication to your regimen
- Switching to a newer version of a medication
- Weaning off a medication with side effects
Regardless of why you might be switching medications, this is a conversation you should absolutely have with your doctor as soon as possible if you haven't discussed it already.
Approaching Your Doctor About Changing Medications
There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to switch your medications.
- Tolerability of side effects
- Length of time you've been taking the medication
- Degree of improvement for whatever condition or symptoms you're treating
Medication changes can be significant, especially for certain disorders and chemical compounds. Treatment for mental disorders, for example, can involve a wide range of psychotropic drugs available in various dosages and combinations.
Because uncertainty surrounds how some drugs impact your ability to perform day-to-day functions, do your best to plan ahead for these medication changes and conversations with your doctor. Timing these changes will help you avoid having too many other significant commitments that could derail or be derailed by the switch.
You may also need to slowly decrease or increase your dosage of a medication over time during the course of the switch. Stopping certain medications abruptly, particularly for mental health conditions, can be dangerous. It's critical to consult your doctor before changing your medication regimen.
Recording Relevant Health Information
Both you and your doctor can benefit significantly from any recordkeeping you perform when it comes to how you feel physically and mentally. Regularly recording certain vital signs or other biometrics pertaining to your condition can be useful. You can also jot down how you feel your body is responding to current or new medication. Both scientific data and personal history and self-awareness are crucial to determining whether you have landed on the most effective treatment regimen.
To record this information in one accessible place, consider keeping a journal. You can also check out different health apps that allow you to record the information that would be most relevant and helpful for tracking your condition and responses to medications. You can then share this information with your doctor at your next visit, or you may be able to use a secured patient portal to share these observations with your doctor electronically.
Doctors and their patients don't always find the right medication regimen on the first try, so don't give up hope if your condition hasn't improved since your last doctor's visit. Consider whether making a medication change could improve your symptoms, and consult your doctor to determine the most effective course of action for you.