Legislation proposed to grant psychologists prescribing previleges

A number of states now have legislative proposals to allow psychologists to prescribe pharmaceuticals. American Medical News has a story on the subject; Psychologists seek prescribing rights in 6 states.

Psychologists in six states are seeking the authority to prescribe drugs, saying it would allow them to serve patients better in a mental health system stretched thin without enough physicians to meet growing demands.

Although this number is only 6 now, I would imagine that if they have any success in this maneuvering the number of states with psychologists pressing for such legislation will go up.

The 6 states considering allowing psychologists to prescribe these powerful brain damaging drugs are Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon and Tennessee. The legislation is opposed by many organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and most state medical organizations. Only the states of Louisiana and New Mexico allow this practice now.

When people in mental health treatment, according to one study, are dying 25 years younger than the rest of the population, due in large part to the drugs that they are being prescribed, I find this effort to grant prescribing privileges to psychologists very distressing. Now that the role of psychiatrist has become one chiefly of pushing pills, the matter could only be exasperated by permitting psychologists to play the same or a similar role.

Proponents of the bills say patients in many areas can’t access mental health services in a timely manner. Shortages of child psychiatrists mean that many families wait months to get needed medication for their children, and many pediatricians are reluctant to prescribe psychotropic drugs, said Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, executive director for professional practice at the American Psychological Assn.

The official line is that this has something to do with improving access to mental health services in rural areas. The reality of the situation is that this has more to do with psychologists as a professional block making a power grab for some of the status and economic clout that psychiatrists have traditionally known. Undoubtedly, where psychologists are allowed prescribing privileges, the same kind of corruption that exists among psychiatrists will make itself felt. Psychologists are not immune from conflict of interest charges, and you will begin to see their names appearing on drug company payrolls.

Allowing psychologists to prescribe psychiatric drugs would be a bad decision, and I would discourage other states from pursuing this sort of legislation. I hope these bills are soundly defeated in the states where they are being proposed. Psychiatric drugs are often ineffective in so far as treatment goes, and they are also potentially damaging to a patient’s physical health. We’ve got more than enough drug induced problems than we can handle with psychiatrists alone prescribing these powerful drugs. Allowing another profession to peddle them would only mean more people get harmed.

7 Responses

  1. This legislation is wonderful! More legislation like this will continue in the coming years. It is the natural evolution of a profession which concerns itself with improving the lives of others in need. Many of you probably do not realize that ther are many psychologists who are already safely prescribing in locations throughout the United States. The patients are not being mistreated or being turned into zombies. The quality of care by these highly-trained prescribing psychologists is outstanding and comprehensive. I applaud the efforts of the people who are making the effort to get this legislation passed. As with any type of change people get nervous. But, believe me, this is the right thing to do.

    • Horrible is the more appropriate adjective to use in this instance. It’s bad enough that most psychiatrists do little more than prescribe pills, and pills that have the potential for causing much harm. The same pills that are credited by some studies with shortening the lives of people in mental health treatment on average 25 years. Give prescribing rights to more people, and more people will be harmed by these drugs. Simple math will tell you that. There is nothing wonderful about iatrogenic disease and death. Turn a blind eye to the fact of iatrogenic damage, and you don’t make it go away. The more people, and with psychologists we’re adding people not subtracting them, allowed to prescribe powerful psychiatric drugs, the more people will be harmed by these same drugs. Most vehemently I must reply, believe me, this is the wrong thing to do!

      • Wonderful is a better adjective than horrible. Maybe it is just common sense (to me anyway), but aren’t psychiatrists aware of the side effects of these meds? Why would they prescribe them if they are so awful? I would guess that a good number of them, at least, do have a valuable purpose, and do indeed help people. Psychiatrists and doctors are pushed by funding from pharmaceutical companies to use certain drugs, and think, act, and treat patients more like doctors. Many psychologists, since they are not medical doctors, are not / do not work in situations / places where they are pushed to “push” certain meds. And psychologists training is in more discussion / behavioral therapy, not using medication and using that approach to help clients. That likely would not change, and it seems, to me, that they would use medication only as a last resort, or in extreme cases. The training and circumstances and approach that psychologists use are very different than that of a psychiatrist, and giving them the power to prescribe medication does not mean that it would be the same thing as just “allowing more people” to do it, it does not necessarily mean that more death rates will increase. Part of the training they receive, relating to prescribing meds, can be that they are not to do so unless in severe cases. My point is that there are many things to look at regarding this topic, and it is not as simple as “just adding to the number of people that can prescribe adds to the number of deaths”.

  2. Can you say “tardive dyskinesia?” Or “early grave?” The legislators sponsoring this bill appear to have accepted a great deal of money from several major drug companies, per our Secretary of State’s website regarding campaign contributors. To quote Freud: “How does that make you feel?”

  3. King Nothing, wonderful might be a better adjective to use than horrible were it an appropriate adjective to use and, in this case, it certainly isn’t an appropriate adjective to use. Horrible, being appropriate, is the better adjective to describe the situation.

    Iatrogenic, or physician caused, disease is a big problem in the medical field, and it’s an enormous problem in the mental health field. Doctors may have some understanding of this, unfortunately, they are taught to ignore this understanding.

    Doctors are pushed by pharmaceutical companies to sell their products because doctors are the ones prescribing those products. When psychologists sell pharmaceutical products, there can be little doubt, pharmaceutical companies will utilize them in the selling of their drugs.

    Part of the problem here is that the mortality rate is so high for people in mental health treatment because of the drugs doctors prescribe. The pretext for granting prescribing rights to psychologists is that it is claimed they would be able to prescribe these drugs to people in places that have a shortage of psychiatrists.

    If psychologists are granted prescription rights, the number of people prescribed these drugs, and damaged by them, is going to go up. It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to see the obvious. Perhaps you are not very proficient at math. If this is the case, then I suggest you take some remedial math classes, and then work on your figures a little bit more.

  4. See what Im having a hard time understanding is why exactly are all medications relation to mental health bad, or deadly? I have friends, with bi polar disorder, with depression, I have suffered from depression myself. Nobody I know has died, gotten sick or even had any real ill effects from medications they have been prescribed for their mental health. I also, albeit only one year so far, am in school working towards being a psychologist (most likely a forensic psychologist). I would love to be able to have the ability to prescribe medication (of course knowing full well what the medication is for, side effects, and everything that goes with it. I would not just write prescriptions just because I can) if it will help people get better. Of course this would also only be after all other possible ways to treat a patient have been exhausted.

    My point is, I know people that are on / have been on medications for mental health with no serious ill effects, and I am working towards being a psychologist. I just dont believe that all medications are bad, or hurtful. They are there for a reason, and I do not have a figure, but considering the 300 million or so people in the U.S., I would feel safe saying that many people are helped. I am not denying that people are harmed by them either. Just saying.

    • I used to go to a inpatient facility, crudely trying to model itself after NYC’s Fountain House. Maybe 70 people entered this facility durring the course of an average day. The number was nearer to 90 on a more booming day. In the space of one year I counted 10 deaths. 10 deaths is more than 10 % of the members present at this facility on a good day. The situation was so bad that, after 3 consequentive deaths at one point, Hospice was called in to console the consumers.

      I’ve have known a number of by no means elderly people in the mental health system that are no longer with us. Most of these people succumbed to heart attacks, probably the result of the metabolic syndrome that comes of taking neuroleptic drugs. These people might still be with us today if psychiatrists emphasized other approaches to treatment over and beyond psychiatric drug treatments.

      When it comes to SSRI anti-depressants, there are many sites on line where people talk about the bad effects they’ve had on these drugs. These effects range from sexual dysfunction and violence to brain damage. Diet, yoga, exercise, etc., a healthy regimen of activities is not going to harm a person one iota. This cannot be said of any of the psychiatric drugs used, not in the interests of recovery, but in order to better “manage symptoms”.

      20 % of the population of the USA according to a recent report are taking one psychiatric drug or another. 11 % of the population is reported to be taking anti-depressants. While there has been talk of a “mental illness” epidemic, what we’ve actually got is a prescription drug addiction epidemic. The recent death of Whitney Houston, possibly from a fatal mix of alchohol and benzodiazapines, speaks directly to this issue. She is hardly the first celebrity we’ve seen slip away due to prescription drug abuse. The problem is that celebrities are headliners while most of the people harmed by these chemical concoctions don’t even make the backpages.

      Over-diagnosis and over-drugging are the rule as far as psychiatric standard practice goes. This rule has resulted in a great deal of harm done to a great many people. Psychiatrists should not use prescription drugs to the extent that they do. I’m sure that there are a great many psychologists who don’t want prescribing previleges. I applaud those professionals who don’t want to inflict harm on other human beings, usually in distress, and I wish them the best. I think we’ve got more than enough people doing damage to other people when it is mainly psychiatrists and general practicioners inflicting that injury. I’m in favor of utilizing more and other forms of treatment that don’t involve the use of these all too often harmful chemicals.

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