Harvard Mental Health Letter

Encouraging patients to take medication as prescribed

Many patients with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — like those with other chronic health conditions — find it difficult to follow a prescribed medication regimen (see table). This is unfortunate, as studies consistently show that the more carefully such patients take medications as prescribed, the less likely they are to experience a relapse or hospitalization. Problems with treatment adherence can also disrupt the therapeutic relationship. This is especially true when conversations about medication escalate into a power struggle, distracting attention from the shared goal of recovery. (One reason that the term "treatment compliance" has fallen out of favor is because it suggests that the patient is to blame.) Two reviews — including one that presented what are believed to be the first consensus guidelines on this topic — sought to distill the research findings and present practical advice about improving adherence.
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