The modern ability to treat many ailments is amazing. Medications for psychiatric disorders, such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression, have granted people more manageable, comfortable lives.  In short, these drugs specifically work to regulate chemical imbalances in the brain. When used appropriately, otherwise debilitating disorders can be controlled.  Despite this, many of these medications have proved dangerous when not used as directed. For this reason, the ethics behind prescription medication have become controversial.

With medical research advancing so quickly, it is important to distinguish between what is truly helpful to people and what may be detrimental.  In both children and adults, prescription medication for psychiatric disorders is negligently prescribed, often abused, and clearly dangerous. To keep prescription drugs from becoming a greater problem, reform and education within the psychiatric industry is imperative.

The act of prescribing medication is often in the personal interest of the prescriber. This contributes greatly to the abuse and misuse of these drugs.  Prescriptions are routinely given after diagnoses that may not have merit or were too quickly established.  Children are classically misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and given medications like Adderall and Vyvance, sometimes at a very young age. The truth is, many children diagnosed with ADHD are simply energetic or unmotivated in school for completely different reasons. ADHD is a profound example of a disorder that is thought to be more common than it actually is.

Most adults can obtain prescriptions with little difficulty, whether or not their claim of ailment is truly valid. Simply put, there are a great deal of people with prescriptions who don’t need them. While prescriptions for children require the advisory of the parents, adults only need to describe symptoms to receive diagnoses and medication. It is too easy for drug-seeking adults to obtain regulated drugs.

So what’s the reason behind it all? Doctors prescribing medications are paid more for their signature on a prescription than any other method of resolving these disorders.  Therapy, for example, takes more time out of a doctor’s day and pays less.  It’s a painfully obvious problem: psychiatrists actually have incentive to inappropriately prescribe medication.  Furthermore, many psychiatrists take a “bare minimum” approach to educating patients about not only the negative effects of the medication, but also the risk-free treatment alternatives. Explaining the patient’s different options should be standard, but is unfortunately seen as impractical to the psychiatry industry.

Taking the nature of the industry into account, then, it isn’t surprising how overused so many medications are. If there was 100% accuracy in diagnosis, clients without true merit would be weeded out and only those with true need would be given drugs, greatly shrinking the business.  However, by making other treatment options more worthwhile for the doctors and making the safe alternatives more attractive than medication, abuse and misuse necessarily decrease. Of course 100% isn’t truly attainable, but it should always be the goal.

This change could be achieved if insurance companies offer better reimbursements for the safer alternatives. An insurance company likely covers a portion of most prescriptions regardless of how long they are prescribed, but there are frequently limits on the amount of therapeutic help. For example, while weekly sessions are often covered, inpatient programs are frequently dismissed.

With fewer prescriptions come fewer side effects.  Early addiction in children and abuse of too-easily obtained prescriptions would diminish. Prescription psychiatric medication should be a last resort after all other methods of treatment have proven ineffective.

Not only do those with a valid prescription sometimes obtain them for the wrong reasons or abuse them, but lots of legal medications also wind up on the illegal drug market. Safety should always be the greatest concern, and it is known that prescription medicine is grossly abused by teens and adults. Surveys have found that anywhere from 4 percent to 16 percent of college students regularly use stimulants or other prescriptions drugs, usually getting them from their peers.

It is also well known that some people obtain prescriptions strictly for the recreational use of them.  The psychiatric drugs Xanax and Adderall, as well as their sister drugs, are some of the most commonly abused.  Taken outside of a doctor’s parameters, these drugs produce a euphoric effect.  Many supposed patients have no diagnosable disorder, but find it easy to obtain a prescription.  This could be combated if doctors were pertinent about giving medication to only those with a real psychiatric disorder.

The illegal trading of these drugs expands the number of people subject to harm from misuse and abuse.  Carefully prescribing drugs to only appropriate cases will decrease the amount being sold illegally. Many prescription medications, such as amphetamines in ADHD medication and benzodiazepines for anxiety, are dangerous when not taken under the recommendation and careful supervision of a professional.  It is those who take the medication illegally or outside of the recommendations that often experience the worst of the negative side effects. The benzodiazepine in Xanax is capable of causing overdose, especially if combined with other drugs.  Similarly, the amphetamines in Adderall are more chemically similar to methamphetamine than anything else.  While the doses in prescription medication are obviously a lot smaller than a single dose of other street drugs, it is the super availability of these medications that makes them dangerous when abused.

A great deal of the prescription drug problem among children is the lack of information being given to the parents, who ultimately make the decision on behalf of their child. There is an inclination to believe that the majority of parents want what is best for their child.  However, perhaps the most honest portrayal of these medications is through television advertisements that spend a great deal of time listing the side effects.  Doctors are infamous for avoiding this the full side-effect discussion; rather, they will explain how the drug might benefit the child and only briefly glaze over all the negative side effects.  Drugs are a scary thing and should be addressed as so.  The attitude towards pills as a cure-all leads to dangerous circumstances.

Prescription medication becomes a serious issue when not painstakingly reviewed.  The doctor prescribing the medication must benefit from giving only accurate prescriptions, and must also educate the patient on the effects of these medications.   Much of this information is overlooked, and the negative effects of this ignorance are tremendous.  Proper education naturally combats the number of people misusing and abusing these drugs.  Reform like this would create a much safer industry, with less abuse and subsequent negative effects. There is too much to lose as a result of these drugs do not take the issue seriously. Without reform and education, prescription drugs will continue to be a danger.