Pros and Cons of Psychotropic Drugs

About Psychotropic Drugs

The subject of psychiatric medications taken to improve/stabilize mental/emotional health is a topic that is fraught with conflicting viewpoints. There are those who feel that taking medications for mental health is a “lazy way out ” and ”not necessary” and only “for the weak.”

However, recent breakthroughs in brain science demonstrate that there are actually various chemical imbalances that exist in the brain that coincide with a depressive or anxious disorder. MRI technology informs us of the dramatic differences in the brain of someone who is “normal” vs. someone who is suffering from a major depressive disorder or severe anxious episode.

My questions to my patients who may benefit from psychotropic mediations but are resistant are always the same:
  • If you were found to be a diabetic would you take insulin?
  • If you have a migraine would you take headache medication?
  • When you have a cough or cold do you take Advil or Tylenol or cold medications?
  • If you have acid reflux will you take medications To reduce stomach upset?

Generally the answer to all of these questions is YES. So why then if you have a true emotional disorder would you not take medications to help you feel better and be able to more fully engage in psychotherapy and experience more balanced psychiatric health?

Psychotropic Drugs Side Effects.

Some patients have concerns about medication side effects but it needs to be understood that every medication you take – even the most basic like antibiotics or aspirins – all have potential side effects. If you read the list of side effects on a bottle of Tylenol you will see what I mean. Your prescriber will go over what side effects are most prevalent and what you can expect. Most people that go on psychiatric drugs feel the benefit outweighs any actual psychotropic medication side effects. If you are having psychotropic drugs side effects your prescriber can alter dosage. He/she can either change the timing in which the medication is taken, or the manner in which it is taken, or switch the medication entirely. There are many, many options.

Who Needs Psychotropic Drugs

Not everyone needs psychotropic drugs. Sometimes psychotherapy is enough to make necessary changes; however, there are some patients who are in such a low place that they need the benefit of medications to lift their mood so they can see clearly enough to enable psychotherapy to work. In these cases I always send my patients to a psychiatric provider for a full evaluation. Oftentimes medications are needed for just a short time – as the brain neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine need to be rebalanced – at other times these medications can be beneficial for a longer period of time.

Whatever the case, it is good to keep an open mind when it comes to considering the benefits of psychiatric medications. Don’t just reject this potential benefit out of hand. Trust your psychotherapist to determine if a psychological evaluation is necessary. If medications are prescribed discuss the pros and cons at length with your therapist or medication provider. Share your concerns and expectations and listen to your provider in terms of what to expect from the medication so you can make a fully informed decision.

FAQ: Define Psychotropic

There are various categories of psychotropic drugs. All have the potential of stabilizing mental/emotional well being when appropriately prescribed:
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Anti-obsessional
  • Psycho-stimulants (medications used to treat ADD or ADHD)
  • Mood Stablizers
  • Antipsychotics
  • Hypnotics (sleep medications)
  • Anti-addiction
Partial List of Frequently Prescribed Psychotropic Drugs by Category:

Anti-Depressants Prozac

Anti-Anxiety Medications Valium

ADHD Medications Ritalin

Mood Stabilizers Lithium

Sleep Medications Ambien

For an in-depth look at Mental Health Medications and Side Effects, download this complimentary booklet from the National Institute of Mental Health .