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To Medicate or Not, that is the Question

Let me first start off by disclosing that I do not have a medical degree or license, nor do I have any formal training in psychiatry, psychotropic medication, or any medical field. All of the opinions and information in this post are based on what I have learned, experienced, or have heard during my work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker both with clients who actively use medication and those who struggle with the decision to use medication or not. This post is also regarding individuals who suffer from mild or moderate psychological issues, not individuals who have significant and debilitating psychological or mental health issues and need to be on psychotropic medication to be able to perform daily living skills. The use of psychotropic medication is a topic that is often very controversial, has both positives and negatives for the individual and others in their lives, and can often times be a very difficult decision to make. In the end, regardless of the outside influences or pressure, the decision is one that is personal and should be made by the individual with their own interests being first and foremost.

If a client is considering whether or not to take psychotropic medication and is struggling with their decision, there are a few areas I make sure to discuss with the client to ensure that they have thought through the decision thoroughly. This is not a comprehensive list, but a few key areas of importance.

  • Past Attempts/Alternatives- After a review of their history of symptoms, it is important to look at all the options and alternatives they have tried in the past to alleviate their symptoms. In my opinion, medication should not be considered until all other possibilities or alternatives have been exhausted. Often times, the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, mindfulness or meditation, talk therapy, relaxation techniques, or other therapeutic methods, can provide significant benefits to the individual. These processes can take time, and most often the consideration of medication is due to wanting a “quick fix” or not seeing results fast enough. Even medication takes time before it has an effect, sometimes months until the right dosage is determined, so a “quick fix” should not be the reason for wanting to start a medication treatment.
  • Possible Outside Influences- It is important to determine any outside influences that may be contributing to the individual wanting to take psychotropic medication. Is there a significant other, parent, friend, colleague, etc. who is recommending or pressuring the individual to take medication? Are there other outside influences, such as media or pop culture? Ensuring that it truly is personal motivation and desire, and not due to another person or outside influence, is important to tease out. This will ensure that the individual is in fact doing it for themselves and there will not be feelings of regret, guilt, or anger towards another source for the decision.
  • Know the Possible Benefits and Side Effects- When considering any medication, psychotropic or not, it is important to know what benefits to expect, but more importantly what side effects could occur. Make sure the client researches and understands the side effects and possible interactions with other medications, preferably by speaking with a qualified medical professional. Or, if possible, have the client make an appointment with a psychiatrist to discuss all the possibilities, positive and negative, which would be extremely beneficial before a decision is made.

There are, of course, many other areas to cover in regards to a client’s decision to take psychotropic medication or not, but to me, these are the three most important. They ensure that the individual has the basic information to make an informed decision and they are doing it for themselves. The decision to take psychotropic medication can often times be difficult, if you are considering psychotropic medication or would like to try alternate treatments, please contact Symmetry Counseling today to schedule an appointment with a therapist who can assist you.

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