Monday, September 26, 2011

The Psychotropic Media Wars

 Just in case you haven't had enough of people ranting about the efficacy (or not) of psychotopic medications in the popular media, I thought I'd refer you over to an article by Dr. Harold Koplewicz on The Huffington Post.  Here's a quote:

Good studies for psychiatric treatments are desperately needed. In the meantime, we have patients, in our case children and adolescents, who desperately need help. These children may be out of control, overwhelmed by anxiety, dangerously aggressive, disorganized in their communication, floundering in school. We need to help them. Medications, often along with behavioral therapy, can have a transformative effect. If they don't help, we are not forced to continue using them. We would like to see objective research catch up with the clinical realities but can't wait until that happens. Furthermore, falling back on pure non-pharmacological treatment is not the better alternative, since these treatments have rarely undergone objective evaluation.

As to the issue of psychoactive drugs actually harming patients by altering their brain chemistry over the long term, which Angell posits, here too data is lacking. It makes no sense to forego present benefit because of undemonstrated future harms. We try to weigh the risks of psychoactive drug treatment against the risks of forgoing treatment. That risk often includes academic failure, dropping out of school, substance abuse and even suicide. Unfortunately, the risks of avoiding demonstrated useful treatments are not something critics, like Angell, consider.