The word used to describe not taking your medications is called 'noncompliance.' When you are noncompliant with your medications, you could be causing great danger to yourself (and possibly others), and it could even be fatal.

Studies show that roughly 25 percent of medications are not taken as prescribed. As far as psychiatric medications, this number is doubled. With bipolar disorder, one in two patients will stop their medication in the first 12 months of treatment; usually because they will experiment with their dosage and/or go off their medication altogether (many because they enjoy their manic 'highs').

But if the medications can control the person's bipolar disorder, why would they stop taking it? There are various reasons:

 

  • Denial. They don't believe they have an illness. They think they may just be 'moody.'
  • Refusal to medicate away their 'true selves.' They feel like they'll turn 'robotic.'
  • Side Effects. This is the most common excuse people give for not taking their medication. However, there are many ways to minimize the side effects of bipolar medication.
  • Over-sedation. They don't want to feel as if they are in a 'fog.'
  • Weight gain. Not all bipolar medications make a person gain weight, but this is still used as an excuse not to take their medication.
  • Sexual dysfunction. This is not a very big side effect of bipolar medication; however, it is still a fear for some people, and a reason why they won't take their medication.
  • Lack of money. They will say that they can't pay for their medications; however, there are many drug companies that now provide medication for free.
  • Lack of insurance. This, too, is no longer a valid excuse, as there is Medicaid and Medicare for needy people and, as previously stated, there are drug companies who will provide medication for free (especially for those people who fall in 'the doughnut hole' of Medicare).
  • No transportation. They will say they have no way to get to the pharmacy to get their medication, and the pharmacy doesn't deliver.
  • Stigma and shame. They will blame it on society if they take medication.
  • No need for it. They believe they can handle their bipolar disorder on their own, without medication.
  • Cured. They believe they are cured (because they are feeling better) and no longer have a need for medication.
  • Drugs/Alcohol. Substance abuse can mask the symptoms of bipolar disorder, so they don't think they need the bipolar medication, or are afraid to mix the two.
  • Long-term Effects. They are afraid of the long-term effects of the medication.
  • Pressure. They feel that their friends, family, coworkers, and society in general are pressuring them not to take the medication.
  • Religion. They say that their religion forbids the taking of medication.
  • 12-Step Program. They will say that their 12-Step Program forbids any chemicals from entering their body, even prescriptions.
  • Pregnancy. They are concerned that their bipolar medication will affect the fetus.
  • Performance. They feel they perform better without medication.
  • Creativity. They believe they are more creative without medication.
  • Productivity. They believe they get more done without their medication.

The excuses not to take their bipolar medication may be as varied as the people who are prescribed the medication. Still, the statistics of people going off their medication along with suicide rates are staggering.

If you have been prescribed medication for your bipolar disorder, please DO NOT go off your medication. Although there are many reasons given above for going off it, they are just excuses. They are not valid.

If you are having problems with your medication, please discuss these problems with your doctor. Do not go off your medication on your own, as this can be very, very dangerous, and even fatal.