Questions & Answers on Psychiatric Medications
Tadao Ogura, M.D.
Can I Choose Not to Use Medications at All?
Of course! As described in the previous section, I have treated many patients without medication, and no one can force you to use any medication against your will. But, if a doctor determines that you need medication because your condition requires them, you should seriously consider listening to the doctor. Remember, "You are often blind about yourself."
But, if you have serious doubts about the doctor's judgment, then you should at least seek a second opinion from another reputable psychiatrist. If two doctors recommend a course of treatment that requires medication, your condition is probably quite serious. Even then, you may still choose not to take medications. But, you will be doing it your way and, therefore, you are the only one who is responsible for the consequences.
Another thing to consider is that non-medication techniques tend to take a long time. Generally, they will take far longer than treatments in combination with medications, and certain non-medication treatments may not be effective at all. Either way, it would prolong unnecessary suffering on your part, and on the part of those around you, so you should consider that in your decision as well.
I will again note that although I have treated many patients without medication successfully, almost all of them were airline pilots, who all had great motivation (airline pilots had motivation bordering on desperation, because they were not allowed to fly while on medication), and perhaps, more importantly, lots of free time (the airline pilots were grounded, so they had unlimited free time). I have had limited success with non-medication techniques among non-pilot patients, possibly due to lack of motivation or lack of time, or both.
There is also some risk involved in choosing a non-medication treatment, because your condition, whether it be anxiety, depression, or psychosis, may go downhill quickly without medications, and you may become suicidal or overly disruptive at home or dysfunctional on your job. And, again, you are the only one responsible for the consequences if you decide to "do it your way."
The most rational way to make a decision is to learn to weigh "which is the lesser of two evils." This applies to choosing between medication vs. non-medication treatment. One of the major purposes of this booklet is to help you to make a well-informed decision.