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The Myth of Medication in Mental Health Treatment

Why taking medication for depression, trauma or even addictions is not effective


The Myth About Medication In Mental Health Treatment

Many different prescription medications are used in mental health treatment. These medications are highly effective for some people, work in a limited way for others, and sometimes have no effect on a small percentage of the diagnosed population.

However, regardless of the specific medication there are some issues that are important for people seeking treatment of addictions, eating disorders, compulsive behaviours or other mental health issues to understand.


Medication for Medical Issues vs. Mental Health Issues

Medication for mental health issues and medical issues function very differently in the body. Most medications for mental health issues work on the chemicals in the brain to bring about the desired change.

This change could be to boost production of a specific chemical, often one of the neurotransmitters that are responsible for positive feelings. There are also medications that prevent the reuptake of those chemicals or neurotransmitters, also boosting the total levels available in the brain. Other medications may work to either inhibit or boost the specific functioning of different brain chemicals.

By contrast, medications for medical issues work on specific systems in the body. Pain medications work with the nerves and the central nervous system, anti-inflammatories respond to areas of inflammation, and antibiotics attack infections.


The Implications

This difference has implications for treatment. If you have a respiratory infection, you have specific symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and a runny nose. When you take the antibiotic, it kills the bacteria causing the problem and the symptoms stop.

However, with a prescription for a mental health condition the medication balances the chemicals in the brain; but the thoughts and the behaviours, the symptoms of the condition, are still present.

This is why simply taking medication for depression, anxiety, trauma, bi-polar disorder or even addictions is not effective. It only addresses the brain chemistry component of the condition, not the underlying mental health issues that are driving the behaviour.

Using medication in mental health treatment - in conjunction with psychotherapy or counselling - is an important consideration. This provides the patient with the ability to have any imbalance in the brain addressed, providing optimal effectiveness for therapy or counselling.

However it is important to recognise that prescribed medications are often not necessary, or are only used for short periods of time during treatment. For some mental health conditions, longer term use may be indicated, and this will be a decision based on several factors that are unique to each patient.


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