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When and Why Would a Therapist Use More Than One Psychotropic Medication?

Mental illness is a serious concern and psychotherapeutic medications are used specifically to treat these disorders. These drugs affect brain activities associated with mental processes and behavior by altering the brain’s chemicals. They fall into 4 broad categories of anti-psychotic, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and hypnotic drugs (Janet Rehnquist, 2001). A psychiatrist uses these drugs to treat the patients with single or multiple mental problems. Some disorders are harmless but others are dangerous and long-lasting. These conditions can be diagnosed and treated and the person can lead a better life with the help of these drugs. With the introduction of psychotherapeutic medications, it has been possible for the successful treatment of mental illness. The consumption of psychotropic medications to improve psychological performance, sensitivity, behavior, or mood, severe emotional and behavioral disturbances has amplified radically in recent years. Additionally it has also increased the rate of polypharmacy and also the co-administration of two or more psychotropic medications (Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, N.D.). This paper discusses the reasons and situations for the use of more than one psychotropic medication.

The use of psychotherapeutic medication depends on the individual, the therapist and the disorder. At times, depressed and anxious people may need single medication for a short span of time, some may need these medications for a longer period. For some a combination may be more effective than a single medication. Therapists analyze each individual and people with conditions such as schizophrenia or manic-depressive illness/bipolar, or depression or anxiety may have to take medication indefinitely. Just because every individual has a difference not all of them respond the same way to psychotherapeutic medications. Many of them react better to a single medication, some may need comparatively higher doses to reach the normal state. Additionally the side effects of these medications are expressive in some but in some, they might not show up. Hence it can be said that these drugs apart from age, sex, body size, body chemistry, physical illnesses, vary from individual to individual (NIMH, 2009). A therapist needs to study the individual case extensively before the medication is planned. In some cases the symptoms of an individual can lead to the diagnosis of multiple mental disorders, leading to greater use of combinations of drugs (Nauert, 2008).

The concurrent use of two or more psychotropic medications is also termed concomitant psychotropic medication. This has been in practice for several years in various countries and is staidly increasing over the years. A therapist in general prescribes concomitant psychotropic medication more frequently to patients with more than one disorder and also based on the severity of disorders (John et al., 2005). For instance, if a patient has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and well as serious depression, the therapist has to use a combination of psychotropic drugs. Secondly, the therapist may opt for a combination based on the severity of symptoms. Often times during the treatment regime there can be instances when the patient does not respond as desired by the therapist with a single drug. In such instances the therapist may use a combination of successful medical treatment interventions. There are also cases when the patient does not go to a single physician and visit several physicians. In such cases the therapist will not ask the patient to discontinue the drugs prescribed by other therapists. There are several other factors such as the advancing age of the person the physical conditions etc. that play an important role in the decision of use of concomitant psychotropic medication (Safer et al. 2003). There are times when concomitant psychotropic medication has deteriorated the quality of life. This is mainly due to the combination of side effects and drug interactions that reduce drug effectiveness. Additionally it also puts the excess financial burden on the patient and their family (Chakos, et al. 2006). Though there are several studies that support the use of concomitant psychotropic medication, further research is essential to establish its success.


Chakos, M.H. et al. (2006) Baseline Use of Concomitant Psychotropic Medications to Treat Schizophrenia in the CATIE Trial, Psychiatr Serv 57:1094-1101. Web.

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, (N.D.) Guidelines for the Utilization of Psychotropic Medications for Children in Foster Care, 2009. Web.

Janet Rehnquist, (2001) Psychotropic Drug Use in Nursing Homes, Department of Health and Human Services, USA. Web.

John D. P., John H.O’Neal, and Mary C.T. (2005) Handbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for Therapists, 4th ed. New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, Calif.

Nauert, R. (2008) Psychotropic Medications Overused Among Foster Children, Web.

NIMH, (2009) Medications, Web. 

Safer, D.J., Zito, J.M and dosReis, S. (2003) Concomitant Psychotropic Medication for Youths, Am J Psychiatry, American Psychiatric Association. 160:438-449. Web.