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The Ethics Of Psychotropic Medications Essay

3196 words - 13 pages

The primary reason I am pursuing my Masters in Social Work is to work within the behavioral health field. However, through the education that I have received thus far combined with personal research that I have done, I am becoming increasingly aware about a personal and professional ethical dilemma surrounding the behavioral health field and psychotropic medications.
The social work field is undoubtedly intertwined with the psychiatric field; social workers provide “the largest proportion of mental health services in the United States” (Moses, p. 211), and 40% of the membership of the NASW (National Association of Social Workers) practice in mental health settings (Cohen). As social workers, we serve as liaisons between patients, families, prescribers, interdisciplinary teams, and schools, in regard to psychiatric referrals, evaluations, treatment, and follow up. Furthermore, many social workers have succumb to and subscribe to the medical model of the psychiatric field - supporting, encouraging, and facilitating the prescribing of psychotropic medications for the mentally ill population (Moses). Social workers working in the behavioral health field are, to an extent, expected to follow the “expertise” of the prescriber who is generally the team-lead within interdisciplinary teams. Because social workers do not have a medical degree, we are taught not to question the prescribing of psychotropic medications. However, many of these medications have horrific side effects, can impact a patient’s physical health, and can compromise a patient’s cognitive functioning and problem-solving abilities (Cohen). Furthermore, mental illness is becoming an epidemic in our society; diagnostic inflation, the psychopharmacological revolution, inflated efficacy rates of the drugs themselves, and the biomedical industrial complex have all led to an alarming increase of individuals who are being diagnosed with a mental illness and being treated with psychotropic medications. Here within lies the ethical dilemma; if social workers continue down this path - following the lead of the psychiatric medical model, I feel that we are not only doing individuals a disservice, but we are also adding to the societal epidemic.
Prior to the “discovery” of chlorpromazine in 1951, treatments for psychiatric symptoms were limited to psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and neurosurgery. Chlorpromazine, which was originally developed in France for surgical patients to increase the effects of anesthesia, was found to have an additional calming effect (similar to a lobotomy); “patients did not lose consciousness, but became sleepy and showed a lack of interest in what occurred around them” (Shen, 1999, p. 408). With these observations, it was hypothesized that this could be useful for the psychiatric field (Whitaker, 2010). Chlorpromazine was supplied to and researched by a group of psychiatrists. It was discovered that with the administration of chlorpromazine,...

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