Imagine having prescribed a new medication, which you may not be familiar with. You decide to do some research. You go to the internet and look it up. And voila! you figure out how the medication works, why it is used, and whether it will be helpful to you. But that’s not it. You also find a long list of side effects associated with that medication. Now, you are sitting in front of your computer probably confused and wondering if you should even be using that medication.
The process of prescribing a medication is not as simple as it may seem. Prescribers consider anumber of things when it comes to developing therapeutic plans for their patients.
Some of the factors that contribute towards prescribing a new medication are:
1. Medical history of the patient for whom the medication is prescribed: this includes
allergies, the patient’s lifestyle, past medical conditions, and medications the patient is
2. Patient’s current medical symptoms.
3. Family history of the patient: for example, someone may have an increased risk of
experiencing mental health issues if one or both of their parents have experienced it.
4. Evidence of effectiveness of the medication.
After carefully considering all these factors and weighing different therapy options, prescribers determine the most suitable medication for a patient, based on their circumstances.
Another important step in prescribing medications is risk-versus-benefit analysis. Most medications are associated with side effects and their use is only justified when benefits outweigh the risks. Criteria for the diagnosis of a particular medical condition also plays an important role in deciding on therapy. For example, if we talk about mental health, everyone may feel sad or depressed from time to time. Yet, antidepressants are not prescribed to everyone. They are most beneficial to people who meet the diagnostic criteria for a certain depressive disorder; because they are the ones most severely affected by disabling mental health symptoms. Mental health conditions are very serious and if unresolved may lead to social withdrawal, self-harm, loss of appetite, not finding pleasure in life, and even suicidal tendencies.That said, antidepressants may have side effects but the benefits derived from them in patients
diagnosed with mental health conditions certainly overshadow their risks.
Finally, although medical literature and internet websites may list a number of side effects for a particular medication, most of them are not very common. Certain side effects may be prevalent more in patients with a specific medical history or ethnic background. Some side effects may also be dose-related and do not appear at low doses. Additionally, some side effects subside with continued use. For example, dizziness and headaches may present in people initially when they first use a mental health medication, but they usually subside with ongoing use.
In a nutshell, different people respond differently to medications. Some may develop side effects some may not. However, if a medication is necessary, the fear of side effects should not hinder its use.