National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Ask the Psychiatric Pharmacist #2

Image   Written by Julie Dopheide, Pharm.D.

What are the long-term effects of taking medication for mental illness? Will the medicine damage my brain, liver, kidney or other organs?

Medications for mental illness are generally safe and effective when used as prescribed.   As with any medication, however, side effects may occur. Research shows that medications like antipsychotics, lithium and antidepressants can actually protect brain cells from damage caused by brain illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.  This improves overall functioning.

While this is true, consumers should know that every medication has some risk of long-term adverse effects.  For example, clozapine (Clozaril®) poses a risk of lowering immune system function, valproate (Depakene®, Depakote®) has a risk of causing liver injury and lithium has a risk of decreasing kidney function.  It is a good idea for consumers to be aware of the possible long term adverse effects of each medication prescribed for them.  Please check out the medication fact sheets on to learn about possible side effects of your medication.  Regular visits to your doctor and blood tests are often necessary to screen for and prevent these adverse effects.

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NAMI Wishes to thank the College of Psychiatric and Neurological Pharmacists for their participation in writing our medication fact sheets and for writing our "Ask the Psychiatric Pharmacist" questions and answers.