Psychology is confronted by numerous issues and challenges today. One of which is the debate over the use of prescription medication for mental health illnesses. Over the past decade, one in five adults was prescribed a psychiatric drug such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medications. Prescriptions for psychiatric medications grew twenty two percent for adults between 2001 to 2010, and prescriptions for ADHD drugs such as Concerta and Vyvans tripled among adults twenty to forty four. This is a significant increase, especially when considering that prior to 1987 when Prozac came to the market, U.S. mental illness disability rate was one in every one hundred eighty four Americans, compared to one in every seventy six in 2007.
While the increase in the number of Americans suffering from a mental health disability in and of itself may not prove anything, the fact that these increase s have occurred simultaneously with the rise in prescription medication does. The reason this so alarming is the that long term effectiveness of many such medications prescribed for depression, anxiety, and learning disabilities have not been thoroughly studies. Scientific literature indicates that many patients treated for a milder problem will worsen in response to a drug such as for example someone may have a manic episode after taking an antidepressant, which leads to a new and more severe diagnosis such as bipolar.
Economic, cultural and social conditions have greatly contributed to a ‘quick fix’ approach. For instance, managed care and insurance companies have become more focused on the bottom line instead of the welfare of its clients. Pharmaceutical companies have seen a greater growth in the past twenty years than ever before, and have an obligation to its stock holders to continue that growth, and prescribers have been inundated with a greater number of patients while also seeing a cut in patient benefits. This perfect storm has resulted in a drug dependent society, and focus on an acute solution for a chronic condition. Moreover, it has caused a divide between Psychologists and Psychiatrists and their methods of intervention.
As we look forward to a new generation of mental health professionals entering the field, there needs to be a higher focus on not only being able to properly diagnosing a mental health illness, but more importantly, understand what the cause of the illness is in the first. There is no doubt that prescription medications have helped countless of Americans, but we need to do more than just focus on a short term interventions being able to see a patient as a whole, instead of just someone with a chemical imbalance. Short term solution may alleviate the symptoms at the moment, but many times will not resolve the problem in the long term. This is best accomplished through awareness and education, not only of the mental health professionals, but also for patients coming to us for treatment.