Tips to find the right treatment for you

If you’ve ever taken prescription medication and had a hard time finding one that works best for you, you’re not alone. Studies from the National Library of Medicine in the United States show that genetic factors can account for up to 95 per cent of a person’s response to medications.

For people experiencing mental illness, medication may be a helpful part of their treatment plan, along with therapy that helps to teach long-term coping techniques. However, medication often takes several months to show effectiveness and if the first medication doesn’t work, finding the right one for your unique set of genes can end up taking many months or even years. At the same time, side effects can add new symptoms or aggravate those you are already managing.

To help you feel better faster, consider the following ideas:

Seek help early: Too often, we wait until our situation is urgent before talking with a specialist. This can mean that our journey back to feeling well becomes significantly longer and potentially increases dependence on medication. Even if you’ve waited, getting help sooner rather than later is worth it.

Start the conversation: Speak with a friend, family, doctor, counsellor or another medical professional that you trust. If you have suicidal thoughts, call 911, a mental health specialist, a suicide hotline, your primary care provider, a close friend or a loved one. Suicidal thinking doesn’t get better on its own – you need to ask for help.

Consider treatment plans that work for you: Mental illness appears in an infinite number of ways, and treatment plans are as unique as humans are from each other. Consider your goals, and options available to you, which might include changing your habits, meeting with specialists to learn coping techniques or taking medication.

Explore your DNA: If you decide that medication is the right path for you, you may want to try drug compatibility testing, which checks genetic markers to help predict which medications are the safest for you, and at what dose. Some disability insurance plans, like those offered by RBC Insurance, will coordinate and oversee the process for you. The test is typically non-invasive – a simple cheek swab that takes less than five minutes to do. Results can be reviewed by your medical team to help you make decisions together about your prescriptions. Find more information about drug compatibility testing at rbcinsurance.com/dna

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