5 Myths About Psychotropic Drugs, Debunked


In the treatment for psychological and psychiatric disorders, it is common for psychological therapy to be accompanied by psychopharmacological treatment (or vice versa, it depends on which specialist you go to first).

Psychotropic drugs are medications designed precisely to treat mental illnesses and disorders. Within these, there is a lot of variety, but they all have in common that they change the chemistry of our nervous system, with the therapeutic purpose of modulating mental and emotional processes, and consequently, our behavior.

What myths about psychotropic drugs should be debunked?

Despite their usefulness and safety, there is a lot of rejection surrounding the consumption of psychotropic drugs, which makes it difficult to adhere to treatment if necessary. As is often the case, this stigma comes in part from misinformation. To alleviate this problem, in this article I debunk 5 myths about psychotropic drugs.

1. Only crazy people take psychotropic drugs

In this myth there is also the added problem of the stigmas associated with mental health problems. The term “crazy” is offensive to people who suffer from psychological disorders, it is already obsolete and this social conception of mental health should disappear.

The softened version of this myth would be “Psychotropic drugs are only for serious mental problems”, which is also not true, at least not completely. Psychotropic drugs are prescribed for serious mental problems, such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder or bipolarity.

Nevertheless, They are also prescribed for less serious and more common psychological problems, such as depression or anxiety. In fact, the most common thing is that if you go to your family doctor, he/she can prescribe you anxiolytics or antidepressants himself/herself, without needing to refer you to a specialist.

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2. All psychotropic drugs generate dependence

It is true that sometimes psychotropic drugs cause dependence. However, it is a function of certain nuances. They rarely create withdrawal symptoms and can generally be stopped cold turkey without anything happening. The side effects of psychotropic drugs depend entirely on the type of specific medication, the disorder for which it is prescribed, and the biological characteristics of the patient.

There are people who are more predisposed to developing dependence, but to any medication, and it is often caused by the very fact of having consumed or are consuming other types of drugs. On the other hand, data on cases in which patients develop a dependence on psychotropic drugs reveal that they are caused by misuse:

This frequently occurs with benzodiazepine-type anxiolytics and opiates. This is a problem at an institutional level, because if the person can abuse medication, it is because they have easy access to it in pharmacies, because they have not been well informed and/or because the medication is not being properly regulated by their doctor. correspondent.

When the consumption of psychotropic drugs is controlled, with the appropriate dose and duration, with follow-up, the probabilities of success with psychotropic drugs are very high. Likewise, in these cases, it is rare for dependence on the medication to develop. Therefore, it is not a problem with the psychotropic drug itself.

3. Psychotropic drugs are going to leave me high

Technically, any medication is a drug, but if by high you mean sedated, asleep, obtuse… Yes, this is a common side effect, as well as sometimes even a desired effect. However, not all psychotropic drugs cause this sensation.

Sedation is generally a side effect and not a desired effect, so it again depends on the medication and the particular case. It is true that there are psychotropic drugs that have a strong sedative effect on purpose, but these are usually only provided in extreme cases in which patients are a danger to themselves or others.

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There are also psychotropic drugs that cause drowsiness and relaxation at more moderate levels, such as anxiolytics, and others that leave you emotionally flat, such as some antidepressants, so that they cause a perception of being sedated. However, not everyone experiences the same side effects from the same psychotropic drug, as occurs with other medications, such as antihistamines.

Therefore, each time it is about improving and creating new psychotropic drugs that reduce their side effects. Ideally, you should mention this to the doctor who prescribed the medication, so that he or she can readjust the dose and, if necessary, look for an alternative psychotropic drug that does not cause the same side effects.


4. Psychotropic drugs are harmful to my entire body

Psychotropic drugs are designed in such a way that they act on cells of the nervous system only, mostly directed to the brain. Otherwise, they are no more harmful than any other medication.

However, it is true that they can also affect the digestive system, especially the intestine, because it has a high connection with a broad neural network. In fact, this digestive organ is often called the second brain. If you notice pain or symptoms in your digestive system, you should tell your doctor so that he can analyze the situation and change the medication.

It should also be noted that the same occurs as with dependence on psychotropic drugs: the cases in which the rest of the body is damaged, in most of them occur because the medication has been misused. It is the responsibility of the patient himself, the pharmacies and the healthcare professional to ensure that this does not happen.

5. Psychotropic drugs themselves are the solution

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, psychotropic drugs are usually an accompaniment to psychological therapy, or vice versa. This phenomenon is not a coincidence, and I am going to add a very relevant nuance: psychopharmacological treatment must be accompanied by psychological therapy, no matter what.

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Psychotropic drugs may be necessary in certain cases, however, they are never enough. They are a little bread for today, hunger for tomorrow. The psychotropic drug may effectively reduce the patient’s symptoms, yes, but this does not solve the psychological problem. It does facilitate psychological treatment, yes, because it eliminates certain difficulties by reducing symptoms.

For a mental disorder or problem to disappear permanently, the person needs to learn techniques, methods and skills to confront the problem on their own. That is why psychological therapy is necessary for any problem of this type, since its function is to provide resources for the person to function alone.

Even in cases where it is not possible to end the psychological disorder, therapy is important so that the person can cope with the process and other derived problems do not arise. However, not always when taking psychotropic drugs and undergoing psychiatric treatment is it accompanied by psychological therapy. Because? Because there are not enough resources.

Psychological therapy replaced in public health by psychotropic drugs

Usually, psychiatric treatment is provided by social security. Currently there are a ridiculous number of positions for psychologists in public health, for laughing rather than crying. In this way, when you go to the family doctor with a psychological problem, he or she usually prescribes psychotropic drugs, or refers you to a psychiatrist, but rarely to a psychologist.

What’s more, when the psychologist is referred to the public system, he/she is overwhelmed by the high demand and number of patients he/she has to manage, and cannot provide adequate follow-up or have long-lasting sessions. And not everyone can afford to go to therapy privately. Again, it is an institutional problem.