Note: My bad experience doesn't have to be your experience. You may be able to prevent it!
Are you someone who has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder? Or are you someone who was diagnosed a long time ago? In both cases, the role of medication for treating bipolar disorder is a constant source of concern. The new patient is trying to understand what this medication will do to him, now and in the long run. There would only be the exceptional person suffering from bipolar disorder who, even if he knows nothing about pharmacology, would want to take medicine. Medicine for the mind will always meet with resistance. This is human, this is natural. The person who has been taking medicine for a long time, whether he is disappointed or pleased, or as is often the case somewhere in between, is concerned with maintaining a degree of wellness. Surely, time has helped him to appreciate the value of taking the correct medicine and the need for vigilance. Even when we think we have come to know everything there is to know, life with bipolar disorder will always throw a surprise our way. A surprise none of us wants but should always be prepared for is, when a bipolar medication goes wrong.
Assuming you have gone through the earlier stage of trial-and-error and the right medication or combination of medicines has been found for you, what could go wrong? It is important to know, what the purpose is for giving medicine for bipolar disorder. It has been understood, that bipolar disorder is a physical illness of the brain. Though it is certainly an oversimplification, it is still true, that there is a biochemical imbalance in the brain that precipitates fluctuations in a person's mood. Medicine seeks to correct those biochemical imbalances. Is it really understood what those imbalances are, or why a certain medicine affects the brain the way that it does? No. Advancements in understanding are being made, but clearer answers as with some of the other physiological illnesses are not yet there with bipolar disorder. It is easier to say, the thyroid produces thyroxine and the pancreas produces insulin, but it is not easy to say what the brain has an excess or lack of that needs to be corrected. Words like the names of neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin are thrown around so casually by many psychiatrists as though we really know what we are talking about. Most practicing psychiatrists are not in the business of active research. They too are end-users of research from other scientists. The process of the development of a drug from the time the compound is made in a laboratory to the time it is deemed fit for prescription by a physician is said to be so well-regulated by bodies like the FDA, that we should really feel secure about taking a prescription medication. Do you feel safe? Perhaps in no other medial field is there danger of harm as in psychiatry and neurology, drugs of which are many times mutually shared.