“Dangerous” pills: why we are afraid to take psychotropic drugs


“Any competent psychiatrist or psychotherapist should regularly ask himself three questions:“ If I offer or prescribe medicine to a patient, how will he react? Why choose this particular form of treatment? Does the appointment harm our mutual trust? ”Says clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Bret Moore.

Prescribing drugs always depends on the doctor-patient relationship. The therapist is not a landscape designer recommending appropriate lawn fertilizers. How the patient reacts to the appointment of a particular drug depends on many factors. Indeed, very often the patient is guided by stereotypes and common myths when he decides whether to drink or not drink prescribed pills.

Myth # 1: Medicines are for “weaklings”

Medicines in our minds are inextricably linked with disease. Many psychiatric patients see their problems as simply “life’s difficulties,” and offering to prescribe medication can cause them feelings of shame and humiliation. They see a hidden meaning here: “You need medicine because you are sick.” And “illness” also evokes certain associations: it seems that a “sick person” is weak, “inferior”, “psycho”, “abnormal”.

Such stereotypes and prejudices depend on many factors – age, gender, ethnicity, social and economic status. The psychotherapist’s suggestion to start taking psychotropic drugs often frightens patients, because they think: “The doctor, apparently, thinks that I cannot cope myself and I need such a crutch. This not only undermines the client’s self-esteem, but also makes him doubt that the therapist sees prospects for improvement.

It is generally accepted that it is “immoral” to take medications for emotional problems. Many people mistakenly believe that all psychotropic drugs are the same – that they all cause addiction, not much different from alcoholism. From this it is concluded that all who take these drugs are “bad” or, at least, weak-willed people.

Myth # 2: Medicines interfere with healing

Normally, most people who survive a traumatic event do not develop PTSD. They gradually restore the shaken mental balance, relying on internal resources and the support of others.

“If a doctor prescribes medication too early for a trauma patient, it can really disrupt the natural process of mental recovery and hinder further psychological and spiritual growth. And in some cases, drugs are not needed at all, ”says Bret Moore.

Properly administered treatment can often relieve patients from severe symptoms and thus restore their freedom.

But sometimes you can’t do without them. But in many 12-Step addiction treatment groups, drugs are considered “evil,” or at least dangerous and addictive.

It is clear that the leaders of such groups, who do not have special education, are wary of any psychotropic substances, often they simply do not know that many psychiatric drugs do not cause addiction.

It is very common for patients with, say, alcoholism and clinical depression, to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (12-Step) groups, where they are urged to stop taking antidepressants. Finally, for some, taking psychotropic drugs seems like an infringement of free will and independence.

Works of art have also played a role, showing how these drugs are used to control patient behavior. In many films (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Girl, Interrupted, A Beautiful Mind) psychotropic drugs are shown as a kind of “chemical straitjackets”.

“Yes, abuses do happen. But the right treatment is often able to free patients from severe symptoms and thus restore their freedom and independence, ”says Bret Moore.

About the expert: Bret Moore is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist.

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