Medication is a common approach used to treat many forms of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety and PTSD. It is estimated that approximately 242 million adults in the United States, roughly one in six Americans, take prescription psychiatric drugs (Fox, 2016). Many people who experience mental health issues seek care from their primary care physician, rather than a mental health expert, which can lead to several issues.
Psychiatric medication is not a bad thing, as long as prescribed by a mental health professional and it is not abused. In fact, medication can be very useful in treating symptoms of mental illness. However, research conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has shown that going directly to a primary care physician without consulting a mental health professional, could result in the patient being prescribed the wrong medications (Smith, 2012). This research also revealed that many people who go directly to their primary care physician for help with mental illness may not be made aware of other evidence-based therapies that could help them (Smith, 2012). According to Dr.Rousseau,“most literature regarding pharmacotherapy stresses that it works more effectively in tandem with other treatments rather than individually” (Rousseau, 2019, p.12). Some forms of therapy have been found to be more effective then medication alone, for example, a study using EMDR to treat PTSD, showed that EMDR was more effective than Prozac (Van der Kolk, 2015).
Medications alone do not cure mental illness, they reduce symptoms by manipulating neurons and neurotransmitters (Rousseau, 2019). Without curing the underlying issue, the patient will never recover and will need to stay on the medication(Van der Kolk, 2015). This could result in medications being used long-term, which could make them habit forming (Holmes, 2016). A study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, found that 84% of participants in the study who reported taking psychiatric pills, reported they had been taking medication for two years or more (Holmes, 2016). Another factor is that all medications have side effects, so long term use could cause other health issues.
Although it may be comforting to go to a primary care physician because a relationship has already been established or because medication seems like a quick fix, the best option is to see a mental health professional for mental health issues. Mental health professional have been specially trained to give proper diagnoses and are able to offer more treatment options then medication alone.
Fox, M. (2016, December 12). One in 6 Americans take antidepressants, other psychiatric drugs. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/one-6-americans-take-antidepressants-other-psychiatric-drugs-n695141
Holmes, L. (2016, December 15). Study Shows Taking Mental Health Medication Is Incredibly Common. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/psychiatric-medication-use_n_58515e35e4b0e411bfd49171
RousseauD. (2019). Module 4. Pathway to Recovery: Understanding Approaches to Trauma Treatment. Lecture, BU Blackboard Learn
Smith, B. (2012, June). Inappropriate prescribing. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/06/prescribing
Van der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.