Over Medication in Mental Health Care

In a blog on Psychology Today Mel Schwartz discussed a young woman he had recently treated. She came into his office having symptoms of anxiety but had no previous therapy and was  prescribed four different medications. His question was the same as mine when first reading this story, what kind of doctor would do this? With the help of therapy the girl was able to get off her medication and control the anxiety.

Schwartz pointed out a very important fact when describing the reasons this girl was medicated so heavily; prescription drugs are handed out like candy these days! It is more time effective to simply write a  prescription to treat a disorder than to spend hours counseling a person. Also, there is big money apparently for doctors who work with pharmaceutical companies to get their brand of a medication out there.

Another point made by Schwartz is that this woman’s illness was handled in such a nonchalant manner because symptoms like hers have become so common place. Depression and anxiety have replaced the common cold in our culture and many doctors tend to treat these disorders much like a doctor in the E.R. would treat a cold. Give them some aspirin, tell them to drink a lot of water, and get some rest. Nothing out of the ordinary, not worth wasting time examining  the patient or doing blood tests.

The levels of depression and anxiety in our culture are staggering. Never before have there been so many clients diagnosed with emotional and mental distresses like these. However, there is money to be made of off people’s suffering (this is a capitalist society after all) and by asking the obvious question -why have these diseases risen to the levels they have in our society?- inevitably pharmaceutical companies and doctors would miss out on money to be made. Therefore, by ignoring the root of the problem, and simply accepting the fact that the epidemic level of these disorders is just a bump in the road of our changing culture no one is helped. The real problem is just swept further under the rug and covered with expensive medications like a Band Aid.

Depression and anxiety like so many other things in our society have become McDonaldized. We have engineered ways to get patients in and out of the office with as little time spent interacting as possible. Medication has taken the place of doctors and has put an even bigger gap in between patients and their health care providers. It’s because of this mechanized process that we see individuals slipping through the cracks and not getting the care they need.

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One Response

  1. I totally agree with you…..there is a problem with how often doctors will prescribe medication for problems that could be handled through therapy or behavior modification. What does it tell you when you go to the doctor and they have different pens and notepads advertising medications? They are in bed with the pharmaceutical companies…taking samples, “souvenirs” and going to lunches with them. I hate the fact that prescription medications can play commercials on TV and put ads in print. The doctor should be the one prescribing meds, a patient shouldn’t go into the office asking for a drug by name….that is just ridiculous!

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