Understanding Medication Management
While medication is not right for everyone, many patients do find success with prescription medication. For some of these individuals, medication is necessary only in the short term. Other patients may need long-term medication to treat chronic mental health issues.
Whether taking medication for acute or chronic issues, every patient needs to engage in medication management to ensure the safety and efficacy of their prescription medication. Effective medication management is a crucial part of mental health care.
Medication management for mental health is very different than medication management for physical ailments. A patient who needs an antibiotic for an infection, for example, only needs to follow up if symptoms persist. For psychiatric patients, however, consulting with their doctor about their medications is an ongoing process.
Doctors typically prescribe medications in recommended dosages that have worked for the majority of patients. The patient begins treatment, then returns to discuss the results with the doctor. The psychiatrist may then make adjustments to the dosage or even switch medications, if necessary.
Bodies adjust to medications over time and disorders can evolve, as well. Because of this, medication management should continue in the long term. Psychiatrists pay special attention to medications that have a high risk of leading to addiction.
The Benefits of Medication for Mental Illness
Deciding whether or not to introduce medication into your mental health treatment plan is a serious matter. In order to make the best decision for yourself, it is important to understand the risks and realities of medication as well as some of the myths that surround psychiatric medication.
One common misconception about psychiatric medications is that they are only used in extreme cases. Psychiatric medications are quite common and used by about one in six adults in the U.S. Patients who choose to use these medications are not alone, or oddities.
Another myth is that these medications make patients numb or catatonic and that they are addictive. Side effects vary from patient to patient. Effective medication management can limit the risks of adverse side effects and addiction.
What Do Psychiatric Medications Treat?
Some mental health disorders are best treated by therapy, while others are effectively treated through therapy and medication. More often than not, the most successful interventions combine the two. For example, a patient receiving exposure therapy for OCD may need medication to ameliorate their symptoms as they practice techniques learned in therapy.
In some cases, medication is the core treatment and therapy the secondary intervention. Those with a chemical imbalance, for example, may need medication to stabilize the mind and then use therapy to help them heal.
The Pros and Cons of Psychiatric Medications
If you are considering medication, your psychiatrist will weigh the pros and cons of medication with you. The following are some of the issues that may come up:
- Can increase chances of recovery
- Takes a holistic approach to healing
- Can alleviate symptoms that are triggered by therapy
- Can give patients the relief they need to conduct their daily lives
- Can address biological triggers
- Can be dangerous without medical supervision
- Can come with negative side effects
- Requires ongoing medication management to ensure safety and efficacy
- Can come with some social stigma
Common Psychiatric Medications
Psychiatric medication came into use at the end of the 19th century as an alternative to traditional restraint methods used to control patients. Psychiatric medications have evolved since these early days. Today, mental health professionals have multiple options that can treat a wide range of disorders.
Antidepressants are the most widely used medication in psychiatry. As their name indicates, these medications work to combat the symptoms of depression. These medications can be useful for patients with other disorders, as well, including anxiety disorders or ADHD. Common antidepressants include:
- Venlafaxine (Effexor)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
Common anti-anxiety medications, including Lorazepam, Clonazepam, and Buspirone, help patients with everything from generalized anxiety to panic attacks. They can be used for acute conditions, working quickly, or for chronic management of long-term conditions, as well.
Antipsychotics work for many disorders, including PTSD, severe depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and OCD. Various antipsychotics include:
- Ziprasidone (Geodon)
- Aripiprazole (Abilify)
- Lurasidone (Latuda)
Working much like coffee does but on a larger scale, stimulants help patients with disorders as diverse as ADHD and binge eating disorder. Common stimulants used in psychiatry include:
Psychiatric medications take careful medication management in which the patient and psychiatrist ensure that the medication is working effectively and safely. It is very important that patients adhere to all dosages and guidelines established by their doctor.
If a patient self doses, takes too much of a medication, or consumes a medication that has not been prescribed to them, it can be very dangerous. Safety should be the first priority when taking medication.
Bodies can adjust to medications over time, so it is important to continue medication management as long as you are on a medication to make sure that it continues working effectively for you. This process is especially crucial when you begin a new medication. You and your mental health professional should watch for side effect, as each medication affects each patient in different ways.