Psychopharmacology is the use of medication to treat psychiatric problems. Psychopharmacologists like ourselves must continuously stay on top of new medications and how they can be used. Psychopharmacology goes beyond simply prescribing the latest new medication. A psychopharmacologist must understand:
Psychiatric pharmaceuticals (or medications for mental disorders) deal with the brain, which is the most complex organ in the body. Understanding the use of psychiatric pharmaceuticals requires a knowledge of:
Anyone with an allopath medical degree (M.D.) or osteopath medical degree (D.O.) can prescribe psychiatric medications. Doctors like ourselves who have completed a residency in psychiatry after medical school have a much deeper understanding of how the brain works and how medications can be used to treat brain disorders.
Both Dr. Grabois and Dr. Pravder are dually board certified in General Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Board certification ensures we remain current in the treatment of psychiatric conditions. Board certification is an ongoing process of testing and peer evaluation.
Some side effects may not appear until weeks or months into your treatment. It is important to discuss your side effects with us. We custom tailor your treatment to your unique needs. You play an important role in deciding which medications to use; we provide insight into the alternatives and discuss the benefits and tradeoffs. This brings you into the decision-making process as an equal partner on your journey to wellness.
Psychiatric medications, or "psychotropics," can have a variety of side effects. The most common side effects include weight gain, emotional flattening (anhedonia), drowsiness (sedation), sexual dysfunction, and hyperprolactinemia (an increase in prolactin that can result in loss of bone mass, cardiovascular irregularities, and other side effects).
Side effects vary depending on the specific medication. For example, first generation antipsychotics can cause marked increases in prolactin, but newer SSRIs do not cause these huge increases.
Compliance is a major problem in the treatment of mental disorders. We have the experience to lessen side effects and make compliance easier. However, some patients lack insight into their condition and need supportive therapy to see the truth. For example, some patients enjoy the manic phase of bipolar disorder, without recognizing that untreated mania can spiral out of control into psychosis or can lead to a crushing cycle of depression.
Most side effects will appear soon after treatment begins, but it may take much longer for you to feel the benefits of your medication. Once patients feel the benefits of a drug, such a calmer mind and more stable emotions, side effects such as constipation may seem relatively unimportant and manageable. If you are bothered by side effects, we have the experience to identify the best alternatives. We can also introduce you to coping strategies that will help mitigate side effects.
A word of caution: psychiatric medication changes brain chemistry, so you should never abruptly stop your medication. Always work closely with your doctor if you decide you want to eliminate or change your medicines.