This excerpt from the National Register of Health Service Psychologists March 2016 Newsletter summarizes a sophisticated view of current research on psychiatric medicines and psychotherapy.
“Similarly, we have for many years searched for evidence that combining common psychological interventions with medication would yield improved patient outcomes, with an associated reduction in overall cost of care. While the Scientific American article included in our “myth busters” section does not directly address this, it does point to a well-known but still troubling phenomenon that is specifically correlated with a healthcare system that relies excessively on the prescription of medication for treatment of common mental conditions. This is the well-acknowledged fact that for many years the psychiatric literature has consistently overestimated the benefit of psychotropics while underreporting the adverse side effects associated with these medications. Publication bias (suppression of studies with negative results) is not unique to psychiatry; psychological research is culpable here as well. But industry funded drug trials have persistently slanted results in favor of prescribed medication, in spite of the existence of government-mandated clinical trials registries and other protective measures.
I have argued that these undoubtedly true observations should not lead us to reflexively eschew pharmacological treatments, but they should lead us to stop reflexively prescribingthem, as researcher Joanna Moncrieff argues in the Scientific American piece. The data are clear that combined treatments for most mental disorders, including psychosis, yield superior outcomes to unimodal treatments. ”
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