Why having a team approach is the key to successful treatment
We have a drug problem.
But the fastest-growing drug problem in this country isn’t pot, meth, heroin, or cocaine. It’s prescription drugs, and it’s profoundly affecting the health of our teens. There has been an alarming increase in the number of children who have been prescribed multiple psychiatric medications. Researchers have seen an increase in antipsychotic use in children and teens since 1999 despite not knowing if the drugs actually work or if they could lead to long-term effects. In fact, there has been very little evidence that prescribing multiple medications for children is safe or effective.
The number of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers prescribed exploded during the pandemic lockdown, thanks in part to telehealth. At that time, doctors were only able to see patients virtually, which prevented them from taking a hands-on approach. During the lockdown, we were all anxious. I understand how this happened back then, but we’re no longer in lockdown. Doctors are seeing patients in their offices now, but unless all the patient’s doctors are in the same healthcare system, one doctor may not know what the other is prescribing.
There has been a dramatic upsurge in the number of children with emotional and behavioral issues that are treated with more than one drug. There have been instances where one doctor prescribed a drug that caused a side effect. The patient was then prescribed a different drug by a different doctor in order to alleviate that symptom only to cause another side effect. Or a doctor might see that the medication they prescribed wasn’t working right away, so they prescribe a higher dosage of the drug or an additional drug. Then another. You can see how this can easily spiral into overprescribing.
This is potentially dangerous on so many levels.
Children can have complex problems that don’t always respond right away to treatment. Some kids are prescribed multiple medications because they have more than one disorder. Other problems may occur with overlapping side effects. Both drugs may cause drowsiness resulting in too much sedation. Two different prescriptions may use the same metabolic pathway causing a buildup of drugs in the body causing side effects that are seen in much larger doses of the medication.
The bottom line is that medication is not a substitute for therapy.
Writing prescriptions for mental health issues may be easy, but it’s not always the safest and most effective treatment. I’m not talking about conditions that may require medication such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or depression, and I certainly don’t want to offend my friends and colleagues who prescribe and do use a team approach. However, the fact remains, that in many cases, multiple medications are being prescribed with life-altering consequences with no coordination of care between healthcare providers.
So, what’s the solution?
Therapy should be the first line of approach because therapy can often get to the root of the problem. A child who acts out in school, for example, may have attention disorder or may have issues at home. Anxiety and depression may cause aggressive behavior. Simply prescribing medication to alter moods won’t get to the bottom of the issue. That’s why it’s important to think beyond prescribing medications right away and take a look at the big picture. Allow a mental health professional to assess what’s going on first. If it turns out that medication would be a helpful part of the treatment plan, then everyone on the “team” will be working toward the same goal.
Medication should be an adjunct to therapy. Make sure all your doctors know what prescriptions you are taking. Ask questions. Suggest that all your healthcare providers talk to one another and come up with a strategy together. There has to be a collaborative approach between the patient, the parents, the doctors, and the mental health professionals. Having a game plan as a team is the key to successful treatment.
If you feel as though your negative thoughts and behaviors are impacting your everyday life, please reach out to us. At Wallace Family Therapy, we are trained to provide the most effective treatment that meets your specific needs and challenges. We’re here to help you.