The quest for well-being: A qualitative study of the experience of taking antipsychotic medication

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Antipsychotic medication is integral to the treatment of severe and enduring mental health problems (e.g. schizophrenia). Such medication is associated with significant adverse side effects that can affect treatment adherence. To date there have been few attempts to analyse qualitatively service users' experience of taking antipsychotic medication. This study, conducted in Exeter, South West England, investigates the subjective experience of side effects of antipsychotic medication to gain a greater understanding of service users' experiences and to gain insights into adherence issues. Data were analysed using a variant of grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) and a model of the experience of taking antipsychotic medication was constructed. The interview schedule was then refined and further interviews (including a focus group) were conducted among a diverse sample recruited from local day centres. Results indicated that people taking antipsychotic medication do not see side effects and symptoms as separate issues. Instead, they describe drugs as ‘good’ or ‘terrible’-an indication of the total impact of their treatment. The model constructed reflects this, having the core concept of Well-being: that is, normality of function, feeling and appearance to the outside world. Major themes relating to this core category were managing treatment, evaluating treatment and understanding of the situation. Implications for medication adherence and clinical practice, including drug choice, are discussed, and the doctor-patient relationship is also considered.

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