Inappropriate prescribing of psychotropic drugs is all too common and this can be attributed to increased off-label prescribing, under-treatment, polypharmacy (prescribing multiple drugs to the same individual at once), and the prescribing of psychiatric drugs by non-specialists such as nurse practitioners, general practitioners, and others untrained in the field of psychiatry.
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In many cases, patients receive medications without getting evaluated by a mental health professional or becoming aware of other alternative treatments that might deliver results without the risk of side effects. Additionally, reports show that 72.7% of antidepressant prescriptions are written in the absence of any a psychiatric diagnosis. Americans are taking mental health medications that may be inappropriate or may not work for their mental health problems.
Increased Use of Mental Health Drugs
The rapid growth of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs has alarmed some mental health professionals concerned about the powerful effects of these drugs, especially when used by children and the elderly. In 2010, Americans spent more than $7 billion for drugs to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), $11 billion on antidepressants, and $16 billion on antipsychotics. While mental health drugs are valuable tools in treating diverse mental disorders, inappropriate prescribing can cause serious harm. Some of the more serious side effects include cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, weight gain, tardive dyskinesia, sleep problems, irritability, and lethargy.
Preschoolers are getting more medication for depressions, anxiety disorders, and ADHD although many of these drugs haven’t been tested with young children. Treating some common mental health problems with drugs may “medicalize” them, turning short-term issues into a longer-term chronic problem. For many patients, medications to do not deliver the same coping skills and benefits as therapy. Inappropriate prescribing has resulted in overmedication and misuse in adolescents. Also, about one in every 12 youth suffer from severe emotional, behavioral, and developmental disorder, and under-treatment remains a serious problem. Inappropriate prescribing can also result in increased suicidal attempts, anxiety, and suicidal attempts among individuals with mental problems.
The increase in inappropriate prescribing comes at a time when many studies show that evidence-based behavioral intervention programs are very effective among individuals with mental health problems. Psychotherapy is promising and a game-changing way to support care while avoiding the complications and harm associated with the inappropriate medication.