Parents may be concerned when their doctor recommends medication for their child or teen. Many questions arise: "What are the side effects," "Will the medication damage my child’s body,?" "Will my child get hooked on the medication?" "Does this mean my child is crazy?" When parents don’t know the answers to these questions, they may keep their child from getting the best possible treatment.

Medication can be an essential part of treatment for mental health problems. Many behavior and mental health problems have a medical cause, so they respond well to medications. Most medications prescribed for mental health problems are safe. They have been well researched and have been used by millions of people. Most are not addictive, and if given properly, will not change your child’s personality or intelligence. Taking medication is not a sign of weakness, but rather, a sign that you and your child are working to improve your child’s mental health.

Before your doctor prescribes medication for a mental health problem, she should do a complete physical and mental health assessment. In addition to medication, you and your child should also be involved in other kinds of programs such as counseling, behavior management and parent education. Medication works best when it is used in combination with other mental health treatments. After your child has been prescribed the medication, she should be closely evaluated by a physician or a nurse practitioner.

Talking To Your Doctor about Mental Health Medications

If your psychiatrist recommends your child take medication for his mental health or behavior problems, there are several things you should ask your doctor:

  • What mental health symptoms does the medication treat?
  • When and how should the medication be taken?
  • When should we notice a change in behavior or feelings as the result of the medication?
  • What side effects do I need to watch out for?
  • What are the short term and long term effects of the medication?
  • What other medications or foods interact with the medication?
  • Are there any toxic or allergic side effects that I should report immediately?
  • What actions can I take to lessen the side effects?