Are Medications Treating Mental Health Symptoms or Causing Them?

Recently, the use of medication to treat mental health disorders has become more prominent. Yet, despite this increase, the prevalence of mental health symptoms has not been reduced, causing experts to wonder why this treatment has been so ineffective. Some have even begun to question whether medications are treating mental health symptoms or if they might instead be causing some of them. It depends who you ask, and there is evidence supporting both assertions.

Mental Health

Evidence Suggesting That Medications Treat Mental Health Symptoms

Psychiatric medications do not cure mental illness, but can minimize symptoms. Medication’s effectiveness depends on the patient and how he or she responds to it. Everybody is different and it is difficult to predict what will happen until a person tries medication.

It has been proven that medication for mental illness is helpful, especially when implemented in conjunction with other treatments, such as psychotherapy and deep brain stimulation.

Evidence Suggesting That Medications Cause Mental Health Symptoms

In her book “Drug-Induced Dementia: the Perfect Crime,” M.D. Grace Jackson details how neuroscience research has shown that medications for mental health are not always helpful. For instance, she stated that medications for mental health — such as tranquilizers, antipsychotics, anti-seizure, mood stabilizing, or psychostimulant medications — could result in brain damage, brain shrinkage, premature death, dementia, or other disorders that mimic mental illness. She discusses the dangers associated with taking medications for mental illness.

Science author Robert Whitaker, in his book titled “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, and Psychiatric Drugs, the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America,” has asserted that long-term use of medication causes higher rates of mental illness. To support his assertion, he cited the large increase in the number of people receiving federal disability benefits for mental illnesses. Also, he cited data that indicated that, from 1987 to 2007, the number of mentally ill disabled children increased thirty-five fold.


Because the aforementioned evidence suggests that medication can both help and hinder mental health, the answer to the question of whether medication treats or causes mental illness is that the medications could do either. Since this conclusion may seem odd, it’s relevant to mention that this sort of ambiguity is not unusual when it comes to matters of human health.

Medication for mental health can either help or hinder a patient depending on the circumstances and depending on whether the medication is implemented in conjunction with other things, such as therapy.

Experts have emphasized that each person is different, and there are always individual factors that impact the extent to which medications are effective. More research should be done to ascertain which factors make medication effective, and also to try to make these drugs safer. These studies should be performed from an outside entity with nothing to gain from the pharmaceutical companies to assure the accuracy of such research.  Additionally, researchers would also be wise to focus on ways to aid mental health in a long term manner, without the long term use of medication.

This article was written by Nurse Practitioner Laura Green.  Laura specializes in urgent care, and sees many patients experiencing side effects from psychiatric medications.  If you have experienced severe problems as a result of medication or Medical Malpractice you are not alone.