Column: Psychiatric drugs to be taken with caution

The Center for Mental Health Services is located in the Arjona Building. Photo by Charlotte Lao, Photo Editor/The Daily Campus

With the growth and expansion of research on the human brain and psyche, there is more medication being developed to treat or minimize symptoms of mental health illnesses. It is because of these developments that we are often prone to naively thinking medication has a magical healing effect. Since there are still qualms about the harms and benefits of taking psychiatric drugs, all patients should be fully aware of the risks of these medications before deciding if they need prescriptions. Because “psychiatric drugs of every kind are exposing people to long-term risks of a declining quality of life, apathy, chronic disability and even shrinkage of the brain,” the decision to take them should not be made lightly or impulsively. It is the duty of the patient to consult with as many professionals and attain all available information about psychiatric medication before asking for a prescription, in order to assess the potential risks and avoid being misled by a corrupt mental health care system that treats patients like customers for monetary gain. Mental health treatment should come in the form of counseling first, and should only be accompanied with prescription drugs later, if the patient needs them to remain stable enough to undergo treatment.

The most commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs are antidepressants, anxiety medication, ADHD medication and medication to treat symptoms of Bipolar disorder. Of these four mental health conditions, only Bipolar disorder is considered a serious mental health illness. It “affects about 2.8 percent (of people)... 83 percent of cases are considered severe.” Patients with severe cases of mental illness almost need medication to undergo treatment with a therapist, maintain the ability to function on a day-to-day basis and avoid the development of symptoms. Bipolar disorder differs from other mental health illnesses because it is the only severe condition; thus, treating it with medication is often necessary. Even so, medicated treatment should be accompanied by consultation sessions with a therapist and prescriptions should only be given when a patient needs them, not sooner.

Antidepressants and anxiety medication are the two most commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs because they are the most common mental illnesses. However, not all cases are severe, so not all cases should be treated with medication. The first step to treating depression or anxiety should be counseling, and medication should only be used if it is needed to allow the patient to continue treatment and remain in a stable mental state. Even when medication is used, it should be incorporated into a treatment process that includes counseling. A therapist should work with a psychiatrist to accurately diagnose. Psychiatric drugs and therapy go hand in hand in the treatment process because the therapist guides the process in accordance to the client’s needs. Moreover, patients react differently to psychiatric medication and may need guidance from a regularly-visited therapist. Sometimes patients can have a resistance to certain medications, and in these instances therapists play a role in recognizing how patients react to drugs and adjust the prescriptions accordingly.

ADHD medication falls under a different category-it focuses more on enhancement within an academic setting. Most people are diagnosed with ADHD as children and can be prescribed medication early in their childhoods. Kids are often prescribed ADHD medication because of hyperactive, distracting behavior in a classroom, but giving kids drugs to make them behave in school seems quite absurd. Instead of medicating kids to fit into a classroom setting, schools should be accomodating for learning difficulties, such as ADHD, through programs like 504 and additional academic resources. ADHD medications are also very addictive, and getting children hooked on Adderall or Concerta at a young age will only cause their bodies to build a tolerance to the drug. A dangerous long-term effect of child-prescriptions of ADHD drugs is the risk of the child developing other mental health illnesses, such as Bipolar disorder, which are much more difficult to treat.

Taking psychiatric drugs is not always the wrong choice, but it is important to be cautious of what medication you are putting in your body. It is impossible to medicate your problems away, but sometimes medicine can help enhance treatment when accompanied by counseling. Medications and psychiatric drugs should be used to help us with our mental health illnesses, not treat them.


Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus.  She can be reached via email at keren.blaunstein@uconn.edu.