NPR’s Talk of the Nation “Science Friday” had a phenomenal debate on the increase in prescriptions for anti-depressants and anti-psychotics for the general US population, but especially for minors (listen here). It is a wonderful half-hour crash course (that gets pretty heated!) on the current state of thinking on these medications from a variety of viewpoints, ranging from those that are in complete support of the trends (Dr. Jeff Lieberman) to those that believe the medications do nothing to treat the underlying condition but instead only relieve symptoms (Dr. David Cohen). I think the best point was the analogy that medications for many physical health conditions only relieve symptoms (e.g. hypertension) yet they are widely viewed as helpful. I would add that for many physical conditions the individual also has to make lifestyle changes to assure continued health even while on the medication. For mental health, a variety of studies have reported the efficacy of a treatment combination of medication and psychotherapy since the symptom relief provided by medication increases the person’s ability to understand his/her situation and make the changes necessary improve overall psychological health and prevent relapse. Unfortunately this point was not made.