A colleague of mine (Dr. David Antonuccio) recently co-authored an article that he believes will be received with enthusiasm similar to that sparked by an army of fire ants at a picnic. In other words, he expects a lot of opposition and push back. But what would a serious academic like Dr. Antonuccio write that could evoke such a response?
Dr. Antonuccio has had the gall to call for a Patient Bill of Rights for psychotropic medications. Mind you, he is not calling for an end to the use of psychotropic medication. Rather, he is suggesting that the pharmaceutical industry has twisted and distorted the data on the effectiveness of psychotropic medications while managing to market so effectively that psychiatric medication sales have grown more than fivefold over the past fifteen years. At the same time, psychotherapy and community interventions have either decreased or remained relatively flat. Yet, the data tell us that, in the vast majority of cases, psychotherapy works at least as well as psychotropic medications and causes far fewer side effects. Not only that, in many cases, psychotherapy confers a benefit in terms of relapse prevention which is not typically found for medications. And counter to what most professionals believe, combining psychological treatment with medications often results in little or no improved outcomes compared to psychotherapy alone.
Furthermore, physicians and other healthcare providers frequently prescribe multiple medications for many emotional disorders even though very little evidence supports the value of doing so. Yet side effects increase with each new prescription handed out. Sadly, patients are rarely provided almost any of this information when prescribed psychotropic medication.
The article lays out six patient rights when they are considering the use of psychotropic medications. I urge everyone with an interest in this issue to read the article itself. It was written to be with the idea that it could serve as a patient handout so you won’t be intimidated by scientific and psychological jargon. I suspect I’ll hear some disgruntled responses from some readers, but I do hope they take the time to actually read the original article before they register their complaints.
Photo by Keith Ramsey, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.