The Medication Question: Weighing Your Mental Health Treatment Options

By Ronald J. Diamond, MD

Reviewed by Joseph Maldonado, MS

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Living in a world in which we are constantly bombarded with advertisements about the latest “miracle drug,” decisions regarding treatment for mental health issues are often difficult to make. Dr. Ronald J. Diamond’s The Medication Question is an excellent compendium for anybody evaluating their mental health treatment choices as well as for those helping others weigh their options. As its book cover suggests, it does provide a “thorough overview” of different mental illnesses and which treatments may be helpful.  If you or a loved one recently received a psychiatric diagnosis and are now trying to figure out which treatment is the correct choice, you should consider taking a look at Dr. Diamond’s latest book.

The Medication Question is predominantly divided into sections according to types of mental health issues. In each section, the author provides an explanation of the symptoms of the given disorder in addition to the various diagnoses within the given category. Dr. Diamond covers most of the more common categories of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, sleeping disorders, and substance abuse. The author then gives information regarding the different medications that are usually used in the treatment for each type.

One of the strengths of this book is Dr. Diamond’s honest appraisal of the effectiveness of the many medications used in mental health treatment. He does not merely state which medication is given for which disorder, he uses his clinical experience to tell the reader the specific ways a medication can alleviate a person’s symptoms. The author does not sugarcoat the effects of medication. Instead, he makes a point of keeping the reader aware of possible side effects certain drugs may have in addition to its benefits. He also explains how certain symptoms may not usually be helped by biological treatment.

Another important point that Dr. Diamond stresses throughout the book is that medication alone is almost never sufficient for treating mental health problems. In each section of the book, there is an overview of the different types of therapy that have been found to be useful for a particular diagnosis. While the focus of the book is on medication, Dr. Diamond does a fine job of describing other therapies and how they can be used in treatment (for example, cognitive-behavioral therapy for panic attacks). The point is made that medication in combination with some other type of therapy most often leads to the most successful treatment.

Make no mistake, however, overall this book is definitely pro-medication. Those of you who may be distinctly against the use of psychiatric medication will not find much use for The Medication Question. While Dr. Diamond does acknowledge the complexity of mental health problems, as a psychiatrist he does lean toward the medical model of epidemiology. This book is not meant to question whether psychotropic medication should be used at all; rather, it is designed to guide the reader into how they might best utilize medication to alleviate any mental health symptoms they might be experiencing.

With this purpose in mind, I found that the last few chapters of the book were slightly lacking. It is within the last 50 pages or so that Dr. Diamond moves away from discussing specific medications and begins to provide advice about how to gain a better understanding of the problem at hand and how best to work with your doctor toward addressing the issue. The chapter titled “Working with Your Doctor” is only about 15 pages long and is somewhat shorthanded when it comes to advice. For example, the author suggests to “ask questions” when you meet with your doctor, but does not give any specific questions that a person would benefit from asking. It’s not that the advice Dr. Diamond provides isn’t helpful; I just felt that this section could have been elaborated on. I believe readers who may have never received mental health treatment before would definitely benefit from additional information in this regard.

Overall, The Medication Question proves to be an excellent informational resource for consumers of mental health services and their families. Dr. Diamond does a superb job of breaking down the essential, need-to-know information about the most commonly used psychiatric medications. Anybody who is at a crossroads in his or her mental health treatment could gain some guidance from reading this book. Despite some of its shortcomings, this book does accomplish what it is designed to do. The question about whether to take medication for one’s mental health problems is often difficult to answer for many people. There is a great deal of confusion and misinformation about what these types of medication can do. If you or someone you know is struggling with “the medication question,” then this book may help in the journey toward a successful recovery.

The Medication Question: Weighing Your Mental Health Treatment Options
By Ronald J. Diamond, MD
W.W. Norton & Company: September 12, 2011
Paperback, 320 pages

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APA Reference
Maldonado, J. (2011). The Medication Question: Weighing Your Mental Health Treatment Options. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-medication-question-weighing-your-mental-health-treatment-options/0009367
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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
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