Minimizing Medication: Are We A Ball And Chain To Our Pills?
The over-reliance on psychiatric medication is a growing concern, as these medications often treat only the symptoms of a problem rather than addressing the root cause. This can lead to a cycle of dependency, plus, psychotropic medications can have side effects and interactions with other drugs that can sometimes cause more harm than good. Antidepressants, for example, can cause weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and even suicidal thoughts in some cases.1 To be clear, there are some cases where medication is necessary - we’re specifically talking about medications used to mask symptoms of an underlying cause.
This is why Dr. Hillary Lin advocates for a medication minimizing philosophy. This means using medications only when necessary and focusing on lifestyle changes and healthy habits to address the root causes of mental health issues.
So why are medications so prevalent?
The short answer is they are the quick, easy fix. It’s easier to take a pill each day for weight loss than spend 45 minutes at the gym. It’s easier to take a pill than to build up a meditation practice. It’s also easier for a doctor to prescribe a medication in the 15 minutes they have with a patient rather than explain how to change their lifestyle to treat the fundamental issue. However, if one decides to go off of the medication without other lifestyle changes, they’re back to square one.
This isn’t to say medications can’t be helpful. They can give someone the push they need to get out of a rut, but without being accompanied by behavior change, that person will be forever dependent on that medication.
For example, psychedelics cause an increase in brain connectivity2, which can increase motivation, inspiration, alter thought patterns, and more. This can give someone the push they need to make the changes in order to treat the underlying issue. These changes aren’t so novel. They often include regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, starting a stress-reducing activity (i.e. meditation), and improving sleep, which all have shown to be effective in improving mental health.3456
Research has also shown that enjoying nature may lessen the need for some medications. A study found that visiting nature three to four times a week was associated with 36% lower odds of using blood pressure pills, 33% lower odds of using mental health medications, and 26% lower odds of using asthma medications.7
In short, medication can be helpful at times, and in certain cases is necessary. However, it’s easy to use medication as a band-aid instead of addressing the root cause with lifestyle changes. So the next time a doctor is ready to prescribe a new medication, consider asking them:
- What will this alleviate?
- How long will I need to be on it?
- Are there alternative lifestyle changes I can make instead?
Read more about Dr. Hillary Lin’s stance on medication here.
- Fava, G. A., Gatti, A., Belaise, C., Guidi, J., & Offidani, E. (2015). Withdrawal symptoms after selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor discontinuation: A systematic review. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25721705/
- Carhart-Harris, R. L., Leech, R., Hellyer, P. J., Shanahan, M., Feilding, A., Tagliazucchi, E., Chialvo, D. R., & Nutt, D. (2014, February 3). The Entropic Brain: A Theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs. Frontiers in human neuroscience. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3909994/
- Belvederi Murri, M., Ekkekakis, P., Magagnoli, M., Zampogna, D., Cattedra, S., Capobianco, L., Serafini, G., Calcagno, P., Zanetidou, S., & Amore, M. (2019, January 10). Physical exercise in major depression: Reducing the mortality gap while improving clinical outcomes. Frontiers in psychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6335323/
- Grosso G., Mistretta A., Marventano S., Purrello A., Vitaglione P., Calabrese G., Drago F., Galvano F. (2014). Beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet on metabolic syndrome. Current pharmaceutical design. Retrieved from **https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24320030/**
- Khoury, B., Sharma, M., Rush, S. E., & Fournier, C. (2015). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25818837/
- Suni, E. (2023, February 9). Mental health and sleep. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health
- Turunen, A. W., Halonen, J., Korpela, K., Ojala, A., Pasanen, T., Siponen, T., Tiittanen, P., Tyrväinen, L., Yli-Tuomi, T., & Lanki, T. (2023, February 1). Cross-sectional associations of different types of nature exposure with psychotropic, antihypertensive and asthma medication. Occupational & Environmental Medicine. Retrieved from https://oem.bmj.com/content/80/2/111
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