Expert Health Articles

Medication Compliance

Christian Steiner, MDChristian Steiner, MD

Psychiatric Center of Northwest Ohio

A very common mistake I see patients make is the abrupt discontinuation of medication without the guidance of their physician. This is a major issue in health care in general, but an even bigger issue in mental health. More often than not, patients will be struggling with issues of anxiety or depression and seek treatment from their primary care provider (PCP). The PCP will then prescribe them an antidepressant with which the patient will be compliant with for some time.

As the medication works, many patients question if they still need to be on that particular medication due to the fact they feel better. The patient will stop the medication and all too often they will see a re-emergence of their previous issues of depression and anxiety, but this time with even worse symptoms. These medications work slowly in the background and do their job in subtle ways. The re-emergence of symptoms does not occur as soon as the medications are stopped. This causes people to assume they were over their problem and didn’t even need the medication. One interesting thing to point out is that many of these medications stay in your body for many days after you take them. For instance, Prozac (a commonly prescribed antidepressant) can last in your body for upward of 25 days or more. 

What we can learn from this is that if you feel you no longer want to be on a medication, please seek the guidance of your physician to assist you through the process. We in health care can all agree that the minimum amount of medication with the best results is always the best answer. But, stopping a medication is a very delicate process that takes trained guidance. 

Many people accuse physicians of taking kickbacks from drug companies or having some form of incentive to prescribe certain quantities of drugs. That is far from the truth. Kickbacks have been outlawed for many years and the only incentive we have is seeing the improvement and well-being of our patients.