What is Medication Management?

Although some mental health patients can achieve recovery without medication, many patients find prescriptions to be helpful. Some of these patients may need medicine for a short time while they sort through specific difficulties. Others may require long-term treatment for chronic conditions.

Regardless of how long people need prescriptions, medication management may play an essential role in treatment. Medication management is different for patients with psychiatric disorders than it is for those who have physical ailments.

For example, if a patient goes to urgent care with a sinus infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics and tell the client to follow up if the symptoms do not clear up. However, this approach does not work for mental health. Instead, a psychiatrist may start with the dosage and type of medication that tends to work for patients similar to the patient at hand.

The doctor may schedule a follow-up appointment quickly after the initial assessment. At this meeting, the psychiatrist can evaluate the patient’s symptoms and make adjustments.

Even when chronic conditions remain well-managed for quite some time, patients may need medication management. As disorders change and the body adapts to specific doses, a doctor may need to adjust the dosages accordingly. Furthermore, some types of medications require doctors to re-evaluate patients regularly to prevent substance abuse.


Why Medication for Mental Illness Can be Beneficial

Choosing whether or not to include medication in a mental health treatment plan is deeply personal. GBHP respects every person’s decision regarding medication. However, patients can only make the best decision when they dispel the myths about medication, understand its uses, and evaluate the risks.

Myths About Medicine

Psychiatric medications help more people than some may assume. In fact, one in every six American adults takes medicine for a mental illness. It’s important for patients to know that they are not alone if they turn to medication.

Another pervasive misunderstanding is that psychiatric is always addictive or will always make patients feel like zombies. The truth is that each medication will work differently for each patient. The side effects also vary by dose and type of medication. While some medicines are addictive, most doctors will not recommend these unless absolutely necessary.

Similarly, patients should not assume that because a specific drug worked for one person, it will work for them. Clients should only focus on finding medications that work for them if they choose this route.

What Types of Illnesses Can Psychiatric Medicine Treat?

Professionals cannot treat every mental disorder with medicine alone. For example, there is no pill that can alter someone’s self-esteem. When a patient struggles primarily with this issue, the psychiatrist may recommend sticking to therapy.

In some cases, mental health medications play small roles in treatment alongside therapy. For example, prescriptions can take the edge off of a phobia, but only therapy can relieve someone of the fear.

Other times, medication is the primary treatment while counseling supplements the plan. Consider a patient who has depression because of a chemical imbalance. Such a client would need medication to rebalance her mind, but may also seek counseling to help aid the healing process.

Medication for Mental Illness Pros and Cons

Psychiatrists help patients weigh the risks and benefits of takings psychiatric medication. Below are some of the pros and cons of medication for mental illness, but it is not a complete list:

Pros:

  • Can lead to recovery
  • Part of a whole-person approach to recovery
  • Helps clear some symptoms while the client works in therapy
  • Can help patients return to everyday activities
  • Sometimes, it is the only solution to a biological problem

Cons:

  • Dangerous without the guidance of a psychiatrist
  • Can have negative side effects
  • Often requires trial and error to find the right doses
  • Some outsiders still stigmatize patients who take these medicines

Common Mental Health Medications

Although people have long used substances to alter their moods, this practice only became part of Western medicine in the late 19th century, when behavioral professionals started using prescription medications rather than restraint to control patient behavior.

In the many decades since, the mental health community has come a long way. Now, several categories exist to treat an array of psychiatric disorders.

Antidepressants

This medication type is one of the most common in the mental health field. The name indicates that these drugs help patients with depression, but other clients can benefit from them as well. People with anxiety disorders or ADHD may take these medications. Some common antidepressants include:

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

Anti-Anxiety Medication

This type of medication can come in rapid doses for people who have panic attacks or daily pills for those with more generalized anxiety. Both act as sedatives that calm the patient. Some common anti-anxiety medications include:

  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Buspirone

Antipsychotics

These medications can help patients with several different types of disorders, including OCD, PTSD, severe depression, GAD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders. There are many types of antipsychotics on the market, including:

  • Aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • Ziprasidone (Geodon)
  • Lurasidone (Latuda)

Stimulants

Stimulants help keep patients more alert, like coffee on a bigger scale. It may seem counterintuitive, but stimulants help patients with ADHD stay focused. Recently, one stimulant has also started treating binge eating disorder. Common stimulants are:

  • Methylphenidate (Concerta)
  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • Dextroamphetamine (ProCentra)
  • Adderall

Medication Therapy Management vs. Self-Dosing

Due to the personal and delicate nature of mental health medications, it’s vital that patients only take these prescriptions exactly as their psychiatrists order them. Taking too much or too little of prescribed medication can steer the treatment off course.

Taking psychiatric drugs that a doctor did not prescribe to a patient can have devastating consequences. Safety is the first reason that GBHP strongly recommends medication management for all patients who take these drugs.

Even when patients take medications exactly as prescribed, problems can arise. Both negative life experiences and progress in therapy can change how much of a medicine a patient needs. Consistent medication management can help ensure that patients stay on the right dosages for themselves.

Medication management is especially important when a patient tries mental health medicine for the first time or switches to a new prescription. Because each drug can affect each person differently, it’s essential for professionals to monitor their patients’ symptoms and potential side effects.

Sometimes, a particular medicine can temporarily make someone feel worse. In this case, pre-existing appointments can help patients get seen when they otherwise may have given up on getting help. With routine medication management, the psychiatrists can notice these behaviors and find medications that suit each patient.

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Priyanka Patel, M.D.
Stress, Bipolar Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, and 6 more.