The field of psychopharmacology has grown rapidly with the development of new and improved drugs to treat a wider range of mental illnesses. Whilst this has brought much needed relief to many individuals helping them to live normal and functional lives, medication is not the cure for everything and not without its own challenges. Psychopharmacology is a complicated field and this discussion merely provides a brief overview. Only medical doctors are licensed to prescribe medication; most often these are primary care physicians and psychiatrists. No drugs should be taken without a full evaluation and if medication is prescribed, the individual should continue to be monitored under the care of the prescribing physician.
There are some mental illnesses for which psychotropic drugs are essential, such as, but not limited to, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders. These disorders are associated with chemical imbalances and disruptions in cognitive pathways in the brain. The drugs are designed to restore these chemical imbalances to bring the individual back to normal functioning. However, the drugs are not a cure for the illness, they simply manage the symptoms, therefore, long term use of the drugs is most often a necessity to maintain healthy functioning.
For other disorders, such as mood or behavioral disorders, psychotropic drugs may help to control the severity of symptoms if the symptoms are significant enough to hinder the individual’s ability to maintain healthy functioning. Examples of such disorders include depression, anxiety, and problems with attention. Again, relief is usually limited to the time the individual is taking the medication and the medication does not treat the underlying causes for the illness. For example, anxiety symptoms are a response to feeling helpless by life events that have overwhelmed an individual’s existing coping skills.
Whilst the use of psychotropic medication has become more widespread and more positively accepted amongst the general population, this should not be reason for complacency when taking them. Typically, these drugs can have side effects, their effectiveness can be inconsistent from one person to another, and changes in an individual’s lifestyle can impact how their biological ingestion. Therefore, even after a diagnosis, it might take a few trials to find the right medication. Furthermore, the effects of the drug may change over time even if it has been working for some time. Like most drugs, the effectiveness of these drugs is very much dependent on compliance with prescription guidelines. These factors highlight the importance of remaining well informed about your medication and conscientious about communicating regularly with your prescribing physician to maintain responsible care and use. No changes should be made to the use of these drugs, even stopping their use, without proper consultation.