Psychiatric Medicines Are Not All Good or All Bad

To take or not to take psychiatric medicine? That is the question.

Far too many people answer yes and take meds they don’t really need for problems that would get better just with the passage of time and/or brief counseling.

More than 20 percent of Americans are on at least one psychotropic drug (sometimes several), too often not for real mental disorders, but for transient emotional distress or for the demoralization that comes from difficult life circumstances.

Meds that are very helpful for clear-cut psychiatric disorders usually do more harm than good when used for the everyday difficulties that life throws at us.

When prescribed loosely, meds provide little benefit, risk harmful side effects, distract attention from solving the real life problems, and reduce people’s trust in their own resilience and the help they can receive from family and other social supports.

Even for those who really need them, psych meds are not always prescribed well. Doses are often too high or too low. And doctors tend to add new drugs when old ones aren’t working, without withdrawing the old ones. This irrational polypharmacy adds to the risks of drug interactions and increases the burden of side effects. Lots of patients who do need to be on medication do better when on lower doses and fewer different types of pills.

But there is another side of the equation. Far too many people who need drugs don’t take them — either because treatment is unavailable or because they don’t realize or accept the fact that they need it.

So we are trapped in the cruel, dumb, and sometimes tragic paradox that the wrong people often take meds, while the right ones don’t.

This terrible situation has many causes that have been discussed already in previous blogs. Our focus here will be —> Read More