Medications Used in Mental Health Treatment

In today’s society, mental health treatment is becoming increasingly necessary. Whether this is due to an increase in mental conditions or increased awareness, treatment is vital for one’s success. Many individuals suffer from mental health conditions. In fact, 18.5 percent of the population over the age of 18 had a mental illness in the past year, and 4.2 percent had a serious mental illness.

When an individual experiences a mental health condition, their mood, thoughts, feelings, ability to relate to others, and their everyday life functions may be impaired. To explain, many factors come into play concerning the development of mental illness. These factors range from environmental factors to genetic predispositions. However, NAMI reported that 75 percent of all mental health conditions are present by age 24. Fortunately, mental health conditions are highly treatable, with positive outcomes increasing when early intervention is successful.

Also, it is important to note that substance use disorder commonly co-occurs with other forms of mental illness. When mental illness and substance use disorder co-occur, this is considered dual-diagnosis. Individuals suffering from a dual-diagnosis will be treated by a team of medical professionals. Treatment includes a combination of integrated and simultaneous recovery for both or all of the patient’s conditions. Oftentimes, dual diagnosis treatment plans include the use of medications that help promote recovery. If you or a loved one suffer from a mental health condition, continue reading to learn more about the medications used in mental health treatment programs.

Antidepressant Medication

Oftentimes, depression and substance use disorder co-occur. In fact, nearly one-third of individuals suffering from major depressive disorder also suffer from an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Commonly, these two disorders co-exist due to individuals attempting to cope with their depression through the use of substances. Additionally, depression can be a side-effect of long-term drug abuse or addiction. As a result, mental health treatment centers often utilize antidepressant medications.

Symptoms of depression are properly managed through the use of medications. To explain, depression is thought to affect the balance of the brain’s natural neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of pleasure. Fortunately, antidepressant medications work to restore balance in those areas.

Substance abuse makes changes in the brain’s reward pathways further exacerbating depression. As a result, antidepressant medications are also useful in drug or alcohol addiction recovery.

The most common antidepressant medications utilized in mental health or addiction recovery include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications include:

  • Prozac (SSRI)
  • Celexa (SSRI)
  • Zoloft (SSRI)
  • Lexapro (SSRI)
  • Paxil (SSRI)
  • Cymbalta (SNRI)
  • Effexor (SNRI)
  • Wellbutrin (SNRI)

Unlike older antidepressant medications, SSRIs do not artificially produce feelings of euphoria. Instead, these medications work to help the brain produce feelings of happiness naturally. As a result, these medications have a lower rate of abuse and addiction than other forms of medications. Some of these medications are utilized in treating an array of anxiety disorders which is why SSRIs and SNRIs are commonly utilized in dual-diagnosis treatment.

The side effects of antidepressant medications may include:

  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Bladder issues
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision

However, many of these side-effects subside over time as the brain and body become accustomed to them. Although, if individuals mix these medications with drugs or alcohol they heighten any risk factors. Consequently, individuals taking these medications should always be under the direction of a medical professional. Fortunately, during mental health treatment, patients receive 24/7 care, support, and medication management.

Antipsychotic Medication

Another common form of medication utilized in mental health treatment is referred to as antipsychotic medication. For better understanding, these medications are used to treat symptoms of psychosis such as delusions (for example, hearing voices), hallucinations, paranoia, or confused thoughts. Antipsychotic medications are used to treat conditions such as schizophrenia, severe depression, severe anxiety, and episodes of mania in bipolar disorder.

Antipsychotic medications used in dual-diagnosis and mental health treatment programs include:

  • Thorazine
  • Haldol
  • Perphenazine
  • Fluphenazine
  • Clozaril
  • Abilify
  • Geodon
  • Seroquel
  • Zyprexa
  • Risperdal
  • Latuda
  • Invega

These medications work by reducing levels of excess dopamine in the brain. Additionally, these medications may affect levels of other neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, noradrenaline, and serotonin. As with any medication or drug, antipsychotic medications can cause side-effects. These side-effects include drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness, rapid heart rate, muscle spasms, rashes, menstrual issues in women, blurred vision, rigidity, and sensitivity to the sun. However, side-effects should subside after taking the medication for some time.

Mood Stabilizers

Mood stabilizers are another common form of medication utilized in mental health treatment. To explain, mood stabilizers are typically prescribed to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. Additionally, these disorders and addiction commonly co-occur, therefore mood stabilizers are vital in dual-diagnosis treatment. There are three main types of mood stabilizer medications, including mineral, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics.

Common forms of mood stabilizers utilized in mental health treatment programs include:

  • Lithium (mineral)
  • Depakote or Depakene (anticonvulsant)
  • Lamictal (anticonvulsant)
  • Carbatrol, Tegretol, Epitol, or Equetro (anticonvulsant)

The side effects of these medications vary. The common side effects of mood stabilizers include, but are not limited to:

  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • tremor
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • decreased sexual desire
  • fever
  • confusion
  • vision problems
  • abnormal bruising or bleeding
  • headaches

Fortunately, individuals who experience side-effects should expect their symptoms to lessen over time. However, if these symptoms do not cease, that is an indication of an individual being on the wrong medication. Thankfully, mental health and dual-diagnosis treatment centers work to find the best possible medication for each individual.

Detox Medications

If an individual suffers from co-occurring disorders, they may need detox medications during treatment. This is because oftentimes, the recovery from a substance use disorder includes symptoms of drug or alcohol withdrawal. In order to lessen these symptoms, mental health and dual-diagnosis treatment program will utilize FDA-approved detox medications. Oftentimes, the use of these medications allows patients to focus on recovering from both disorders, rather than focusing on the symptoms of substance withdrawal.

Detox medications typically include buprenorphine and/or naloxone. Buprenorphine, a long-acting partial opioid agonist, binds to opioid receptor sites in the brain. As a result, patients experience lessened withdrawal symptoms without receiving an opioid high. Medications containing buprenorphine include Suboxone and Subutex.

On the other hand, naloxone is an opioid antagonist that affectively blocks opioid receptor sites. As a result, naloxone prevents an individual from receiving any effects of opioids when they are taken. To explain, medications containing naloxone are utilized in order to prevent a relapse from occurring. These medications should only be used after a full drug and alcohol detoxification has been completed.

Mental Health Treatment at Voices of Mental Health

To reiterate, medications have been proven successful in the treatment of mental health conditions. Additionally, most of the medications utilized in mental health treatment are safe for individuals who suffer from co-occurring substance abuse. However, mental health professionals require that treatment includes psychotherapy and medications. This is done in order to promote long-term recovery and management of symptoms.

At Voices of Mental Health, we provide consistent support and professional treatment. This includes the use of safe and effective medications alongside varying forms of psychotherapy. If you or a loved one requires treatment for a mental health condition or co-occurring disorders, contact Voices of Mental Health today. Our team of professional and experienced staff will help you to create a strong foundation of mental health recovery.

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Last Edited: December 17, 2019
AUTHOR Jeffrey Juergens About Sources
Clinically Reviewed: July 22, 2019
CLINICAL REVIEWER Theresa Parisi About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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