Special needs to consider when taking psychiatric medication?

Even now psychiatric medications can be taken by all types of people in all age ranges there are some considerations that do need to be made. Children and adolescents, older adults, and women who are pregnant or may become pregnant have special needs when it comes to the prescription of psychiatric medication.

Children and adolescents

Medications prescribed to treat children and adolescents who suffer from mental illness are generally safe. Unfortunately, most of the psychiatric medication on the market has not been studied or approved for use in children. Because children’s bodies are still growing and developing researchers are unsure of how some of these medications may affect them. In any case, psychologist may still prescribe medications not approved by the FDA for use with children.

Parents with children who are on psychiatric medication that has-been prescribed “off label” it is important for them to be closely monitored. Teens and children may have different side effects from the medication that adults will not see. In addition, some medications such as ADHD medications and antidepressants have been known to cause increased thoughts of suicide in children and young adults. Because of these dangerous side effects the FDA has put warnings on these medications.

Other methods of treatment such as psychotherapy, educational courses, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family therapy should be considered by parents of children who need psychiatric medication. Often times children can learn the behavior that they need to cope with their illness rather than take unapproved medications.

The National Institute for Mental Health believes that more research is needed on psychiatric medications and their effects on children and adolescents. While some ADHD medications have been approved for children as young as three years old, a recent National Institute for Mental Health study has shown that children as young as 3 to 5 years old are more sensitive to side effects of medication. These medications may also slow the growth rates in these children.

Older adults

One of the main concerns for older adults is the fact that they typically have more medical problems than any other group. Because they are more likely to be on more medications then younger adults they have a higher risk of having drug interactions, overdosing, or missing doses.

Older people also have a tendency to be more sensitive to their medications. This is because their body processes medications more slowly than younger adults. This is even true in healthy older people. For this reason older adults who are on psychiatric medications may need a lower dose then the average young person.

Another concern with older people taking psychiatric medications is their ability to remember what dose are supposed to take. An older adult that needs medication for mental disorder may forget to take the regular dose and end up either taking too little or too much. The best way for them to keep track of it, without a caretaker president, is to use a seven-day pillbox. Their caregivers can fill the box at the beginning of each week allowing the older adult to take the appropriate medications each day. It gives the older adult a sense of control while helping to ensure that the appropriate medication is taken.

Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant

women who are pregnant or may become pregnant are a third group that may have some special needs when it comes to medication for mental disorders. There is simply not a lot of research available for the use of psychiatric medications during pregnancy.

At this time there is research showing that antidepressants are safe for use during pregnancy. However, the antidepressant does cross the placenta and can reach the baby. There has been some research that suggests the use of SSRIs can be associated with birth defects and miscarriages. However, the research is inconclusive as other studies do not support this finding. These same studies have found that babies exposed to SSRIs during the third trimester may have withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth. The symptoms are mild and short-lived and no deaths have been reported.

There is concern that women who stopped taking antidepressants during pregnancy may relapse into their depression putting a greater risk on their baby and themselves.

Benzodiazepines may cause birth defects if taken during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Benzodiazepines and lithium have been known to cause a baby to be drowsy and limp. These infants cannot breathe or speed very well.

Research also suggests that women taking antipsychotic medications during the first trimester of their pregnancy may see birth defects in their children. There is a very wide range of antipsychotics, and not all of them cause birth defects. At this point researchers indicate haloperidol as the safest antipsychotic medication to take during pregnancies. This antipsychotic medication has been studied more than other antipsychotic medications and no birth defects have been found.

For women with a history of depression or who have stopped taking any psychiatric medication during their pregnancy, doctors should monitor them closely for postpartum depression. It should also be noted that psychiatric medications can be passed through breast milk. There’s bearing research on whether or not medications found in breast milk will affect the baby. Women should consult their physicians prior to nursing while taking these medications.


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