Pill or Talk Therapy?

While it is important to continue research into the brain, its chemistry, structure and function, it is also critical to recognize that the complex issues that addicts and others with co-occurring disorders deal with are not generally subject to improvement with pharmaceutical interventions alone. Talk therapies, whether in conjunction with pharmaceuticals or on their own, are a crucial aspect of addiction treatment and recovery. Why then, are we relying so much on pharmaceutical treatment?

Dr. Richard Friedman recently wrote in the New York Times:

Still, there has been a steady decline in the number of Americans receiving psychotherapy along with a concomitant increase in the use of psychotropic medication in those who are treated in the outpatient setting. These trends are most likely driven by many factors, including cost and the limited availability that most Americans have to mental health practitioners. It is clearly cheaper and faster to give a pill than deliver psychotherapy.

Yet many individuals would prefer psychotherapy to pharmaceutical interventions. Dr. Friedman continues:

…In a meta-analysis of 34 studies, Dr. R. Kathryn McHugh at McLean Hospital found that patients were three times more likely to want psychotherapy than psychotropic drugs.

What does this mean for individuals in need of mental health treatment? You have to be a strong advocate for what you want and educate yourself on the therapies available. Whether that means working with your doctor to talk to your insurance to procure every ounce of benefits you have coming to you or finding low cost resources or online resources if you live far out in a rural area – you have to demand the treatment you need and deserve. Complex psychological issues like PTSD, as an example, will not yield to a pill alone. Psychotherapy is needed to make as complete a recovery as possible.

You have healthcare choices. Demand the treatment that you want, that you believe will be best for you. You deserve to recover.