Psychopharmacology (Medication Management)

What is Psychopharmacology (medication management)?

Psychopharmacology refers to the use of medication in treating mental health conditions. Medications can play a role in improving most mental health conditions. Some patients are treated with medication alone, while others are treated in combination with therapy or other treatments. Generally speaking, research shows that the most effective treatments for most mental health conditions involve a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Some conditions require the use of multiple medications. A psychiatrist should be involved when multiple psychiatric medications are prescribed or when medications require monitoring.

How do I know if I need medication for a mental health condition?

Medication is often recommended when symptoms are moderate to severe or symptoms have not improved with therapy alone. At times, a therapist will recommend a consultation with a psychiatrist based on their clinical judgment. Anyone who wants to learn if medication may be helpful can meet with a psychiatrist for an evaluation and discussion of what role medications may play in their treatment. Psychiatric medications can only be prescribed by a licensed medical professional such as a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner.

How long will I take psychiatric medications?

In some instances, psychiatric medications can be used for short-term relief of symptoms. In other cases, medications may prove to be beneficial for a longer period of time. Use of medication could range from a few weeks or months to several years, depending on what the psychiatrist and the patient believe is the most effective way to treat a mental health condition. Decisions regarding starting or stopping medications are best made in collaboration with a treating psychiatrist. The patient and provider work together to weigh the benefits of medications against the risks or side effects that they may cause. 

Types of Psychiatric Medications

  • Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medications. Antidepressants work through the neurotransmitter serotonin and may also have effects on norepinephrine and dopamine. There are multiple types of antidepressants including SSRIs (e.g., fluoxetine (Prozac®), sertraline (Zoloft®) escitalopram (Lexapro®), citalopram (Celexa®) and SNRIs (e.g., venlafaxine (Effexor®), duloxetine (Cymbalta®). These medications are first line choices for depression and anxiety disorders.
  • Benzodiazepines (e.g., clonazepam (Klonopin®), alprazolam (Xanax®), lorazepam (Ativan®) are prescribed to treat severe anxiety, panic attacks and at times insomnia. These medications are controlled substances with the potential to cause addiction, so they require close monitoring.
  • Stimulants (e.g., dextroamphetamine salts (Adderall®), methylphenidate (Ritalin®), lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse ®) are used predominately to treat ADHD.
  • Mood stabilizers are commonly used to treat mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and treatment-resistant depression. Some mood stabilizers such as lithium and valproic acid (Depakote®) require monitoring of blood levels.
  • Antipsychotics (e.g. aripiprazole (Abilify®), lurasidone (Latuda®), risperidone (Risperdal®), perphenazine (Prolixin®), and haloperidol (Haldol®) are used to treat psychotic illness such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. They also have FDA indications for treatment of bipolar disorder and in some cases can be used to improve treatment for depression.

How can I receive Psychopharmacology (Medication Management) at Columbia?

Here at ColumbiaDoctors, all of our locations provide individual psychopharmacology as part of our general psychiatry and psychology services. Our expert psychiatrists tailor psychopharmacology treatment based on the latest research as well as individual patient goals. 

Search our providers for a therapist or psychiatrist with expertise in psychopharmacology.