Medication in the treatment of mental disorders

One of the treatment methods for mental disorders is medication. For some disorders, medication is extremely important, and one of the possible treatment alternatives for others. For example, the official treatment suggested for depression recommends a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Medication gives those suffering from very difficult disorders a chance to a meaningful life. Each year, more than 700 000 Finns use some sort of medication intended for mental disorders at least occasionally. Despite the commonness of psychiatric medications, their use is still sometimes associated with prejudice or shame. In the worst-case scenario, the person in need of medication may refuse to take it, thus deteriorating his/her own well-being. Therefore, people should treat psychiatric medications similarly to medication prescribed for physical illnesses.

Medication may be used to alleviate, prevent or treat various symptoms, ranging from unbearable emotions to hallucinations. The choice of medication is based on the mental disorder, the nature of the symptoms and individual factors, among other things.

Sometimes finding the right medication can take time. However, psychiatric medication has been studied extensively and doctors are therefore able to assess what group of drugs would be beneficial for a particular patient. Psychiatric medication is based on their effect on the central nervous system and on the so-called brain neurotransmitters.

Discontinuation of medical treatment

Psychiatric medications should always be discontinued under the guidance of a doctor. Once the patients stop taking the medication, they may present various symptoms, such as sweating, headache and dizziness. These so-called withdrawal symptoms may also occur in connection with the discontinuation of antidepressants, even though such medications do not cause physical dependence. On the other hand, the use of tranquillisers involves the risk of addiction; nevertheless, the risk may be lowered in different ways.

Therefore, withdrawal symptoms are rarely a sign of having developed medication dependence. Instead, this is a natural consequence of medication concentrations decreasing in a body that is used to the medication. In order to minimise the withdrawal symptoms, the use of medication is usually gradually discontinued, i.e. the dosage is reduced little by little.

However, if the withdrawal symptoms do not seem to disappear within a reasonable time period, people who have suffered from depression, for example, should go see a doctor. Sometimes the symptoms are a sign of the medication having been discontinued too early or of the depression recurring. The doctor will be able to evaluate when the withdrawal symptoms should have started to subside.

Remember to take your medicine according to the instructions!