Quick with the prescriptions

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An article that appeared recently in one of the local papers went to great lengths to highlight the growing number of patients seeking psychiatrist help and how business was booming for those prescribing the magic pills. The article implied that regional developments and uncertainties have led many to a life of anxiety and depression.

What I felt the article failed to focus on were the remedial actions of those in the medical profession who are tasked with dealing with such mental anguish. In some hospitals, especially private ones, there seems to be a lack of qualified and local therapeutic help or psychiatric treatment based on a concentrated study of the patient’s medical and social background.

In some hospitals, it is not uncommon to find patients waiting dolefully for their monthly prescription of mind soothing drugs. The psychiatrist on duty seems to have a quota to fill and patients are shuttled in and out, willingly led by a nurse through an imaginary turnstile, only to return in a few minutes with a prescription in hand.

It seems that very little effort is made by those in this noble profession to understand why patients seek such help. Any student of psychology or psychiatry will tell you that to treat a patient effectively one must get to the core cause of the issue that is disturbing the patient’s mental state. And that is long before any pills are readily prescribed.

But here it seems more like a case of “have prescription pad, will travel”. Time and time again, patients are fed chemicals deadly enough to put a horse down. And this is done without prior testing of the patient’s reactions to such pills. Whether some doctors are working in cahoots with the drug suppliers remains to be investigated, but what is a certainty is that there have been far too many cases of patients being prescribed the wrong medication, especially in the field of psychiatry.

Stories of patients erroneously diagnosed and given epileptic medication when all they needed was perhaps a change of climate and some rest are not uncommon. Neither are cases of mind-altering medication being dispensed to patients who had a slight case of anxiety. And whether it is a case of a psychiatrist pushing pills to get to the next patient and thus increase revenue for his hospital, or simply incompetence on the part of the psychiatrist remains to be investigated by the Health Ministry.

While some of us generally do a bit of research on the medication we are about to take, not everyone is so cautious or vigilant. Experience has taught us that doctors do not always know best, and patients must be alert before experimenting with new medication. Some people are very trusting of their doctors and will pop pills as instructed. And when there are severe or in some cases extreme reactions, they are generally blamed on the patient or as “acts of God”.

In the field of psychiatry, the problem is more intense as mind-altering drugs can be destructive and sometimes create a life-long dependency. Prescribing powerful medication should not be related to the need to process the highest number of patients through hospital corridors, or by the wheeling and dealing between physicians and drug salesmen and traders, but rather by a serious evaluation of the problem at hand.

And patients who have been given prescriptions should remember to get another opinion or two. When in doubt, hold off. Don’t be too ready to pop those pills. Reversing the effect of strong medication is often very painful.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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