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The past two decades have witnessed incredible progress in unraveling the mystery behind the causes and treatments of various behavioral and emotional disorders, which are biological in nature. Discovery of serotonin reuptake inhibitors marked the turning point in the cure of depression and other illnesses linked to serotonin.
Physicians have continued prescribing medications like Ritalin to patients with attention problems. Psychopharmacological interventions are now prevalent and the society embraces them.
As individuals with limited experience in pharmacy continue prescribing drugs to patients, the question arises if non-physicians like psychologists should be allowed to prescribe medication. This paper will critically analyze the arguments given in support and opposition of this matter.
Facts presented by each side
Individuals supporting the authorization of psychologists to prescribe medication support their argument by giving instances of cases where people suffering from mental problems have ended up being referred to psychologists by pediatricians before the latter can prescribe any medication. Consequently, if the psychologist had the privilege to prescribe, such patients would not go through all these processes.
In addition, these protagonists claim that most of the physicians that have the mandate to prescribe medication to people with mental problems are not qualified (Zimmerman & Wienckowski, 1991). Hence, it would be disastrous if such physicians prescribed the wrong medication. They refer to a case where a patient suffering from depression was advised by a physician to use antidepressants only to suffer from insomnia thereafter.
In the process of treating the insomnia, the physician prescribed sedatives that made the situation worse. To prove that it would not be suicidal to allow psychologists to prescribe medication, Kohn et al. (2000) posit that over 7000 people die every year from medications prescribed by qualified physicians.
Individuals opposed to the issue of allowing psychologists to prescribe medications argue that most of patients suffering from mental problems prefer meeting their primary care physicians to psychologists (Zimmerman & Wienckowski, 1991).
Moreover, they argue that numerous managed care organizations approve that such patients get treatments from physicians. In addition, they argue that it is hard to ascertain how authorizing psychologists to prescribe medication would apply to psychologists practicing independently and working in a diverse environment.
Opinions presented by each side
Individuals supporting the authorization of psychologists to prescribe medications have the opinion that this move would facilitate in enhancing services offered to patients. For instance, the psychologists would give their patients the best prescriptions. The proponents argue that physicians who have no experience in psychiatry issue most of the prescriptions given to people with mental problems.
The fact that physicians can prescribe medications to people with mental problems implies that psychologists would be in a better position to do the same, since the latter have knowledge in psychiatry. Another opinion shared by those supporting the authorization of psychologists to prescribe medication is that the move would help numerous people with mental problems access cheap and quality treatment (Adams & Bieliauskas, 1994).
They claim that the patients incur a lot of cost since they have to meet a psychologist for the service and later see a physician for the prescription. They also relate the issue with the case of psychologists that prescribe medication in the United States Department of Defense. They argue that, for the time these psychologists have been involved in the activity, no case of complication has been witnessed.
Those opposed to allowing psychologists to prescribe medication have the opinion that, rather than allowing the psychologists to prescribe medication, the country ought to enhance its service delivery by establishing a stable environment where physicians collaborate with psychologists in offering treatment to patients, in this case, the physicians assuming the role of prescribing medications (Hayes & Heiby, 1996).
Besides, they have the opinion that it would be hard to conclude that psychologists authorized to prescribe medication would be willing to move to areas where the service is unavailable. Hence, it is not clear if authorizing them would help in enhancing service delivery.
Strengths and weaknesses associated to the pro side
The strengths associated with the side supporting the authorization of psychologists to prescribe medications include evidence of numerous cases where physicians have always consulted psychologists before prescribing medication to people with mental problems.
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Moreover, instances of physicians prescribing wrong medications only for the psychologists to intervene later prove that psychologists have the capacity to prescribe medication (Klusman, 1998). The fact that there are numerous unattended cases of mental problems in the US also reinforces the desire to authorize psychologists to prescribe medications.
For decades, most of psychologists in government agencies and schools have been prescribing medications. Therefore, since these psychologists have been doing it, there is no reason why the involved authorities should deny psychologists the right to prescribe medications.
One of the weaknesses of those supporting the authorization is that it is hard to identify the psychologists with experience in prescribing medication (Pachman, 1996). Hence, allowing all the psychologists to prescribe might later become problematic with some prescribing wrong medications.
In spite of psychologists managing to prescribe medication in the military settings, it is difficult to ascertain that the same case would apply to psychologists working in an assortment of environments.
Strengths and weaknesses associated with the con side
Some of the strengths associated with those opposing the authorization of psychologists to prescribe medication include the argument that psychologists have little or no experience in human physiology, which is crucial in prescription.
Moreover, psychologists have no physical clinical training that facilitates in prescribing. Individuals supporting authorization of psychologists to prescribe medications claim that prescription does not require in depth knowledge on human physiology; moreover, psychologists can acquire the required knowledge through the help of computerized systems.
However, psychologists lack experience in pathophysiology and clinical medicine, which are vital elements in prescription (Kingsbury, 1992). This aspect gives those opposed to the issue a better chance of support their opposition.
There is no data to indicate that psychologists are prepared to prescribe. In spite of availability of some information, which shows that psychologists offer psychological treatments and have exposure to informal medication, it is hard to tell how well they can manage to prescribe medication to patients experiencing a long-term mental problem.
The weaknesses associated with those opposed to authorization of psychologists to prescribe medications include, the fact that for decades, psychologists have been prescribing medication and no case of wrong prescription has been reported. Hence, they are not capable of explaining how their authorization would affect the patients.
The fact that some physicians have referred their patients to psychologists and even prescribed wrong medication only for the psychologists to assist them later, contradicts the opponents’ claim that psychologists have no experience in prescribing medication.
The arguments presented by the two authors are credible. Robert Resnick does not only express his personal opinions as to why psychologists ought to be authorized to prescribe medications. He goes a step further to share other people’s opinion by conducting a thorough research. Moreover, he supports his arguments with concrete evidence, thus making the arguments reliable.
For instance, he shares with the readers the experience in the United States Department of Defense. Such an example sheds light on the importance of authorizing psychologists to prescribe medications.
Besides sharing other people’s experiences, he shares his personal experience as a psychologist. Being a psychologist, he is in a better position to explain the hardships encountered by people suffering from mental problems than an individual who only hears of the same from others.
William Robiner conducted a thorough research before making the decision to oppose the authorization of psychologists to prescribe medication. He evaluated the training that psychologists undergo to ensure that they are equipped with adequate skills to prescribe medications. Besides, he sought the opinion of other intellectuals in coming up with his conclusion.
The correct author
Based on the information presented by the two authors, I agree with Robiner. Resnick has managed to express his views as to why he feels that it is wise to allow psychologists to prescribe medications. In spite of gathering a lot of information from other scholars and sharing his personal experience, most of his information focuses on provocative issues.
He does this deliberately to make sure that people do not concentrate on identifying the skills and knowledge required in prescribing. Despite Resnick’s claim that psychologists have been prescribing medications for a long time, he is not capable of showing that they have experience in prescribing.
This implies that those psychologists have been prescribing meditations illegally. The fact that they have never prescribed wrong medication does not give them the privilege to go on with the exercise.
In his argument, Robiner weighs all the possibilities before making up a conclusion, which makes his information reliable. For instance, he is not opposed to the fact that psychologists have been prescribing medication, but he questions the legality of their acts since they do not have the required knowledge.
Robiner answers those claiming that psychologists go through trainings that equip them with prescription skills by evaluating both the training undertaken by psychologists and that taken by individuals authorized to prescribe. In the process, he proves that psychologists have little experience, if any, in the field of prescription.
Most of the contemporary researches are against authorizing psychologists to prescribe medication. Miller believes that authorizing psychologists to prescribe medication amounts to subjecting the patients’ health to risk. According to Miller (2007), psychologists do not have experience in medications; hence, allowing them to prescribe medications to individuals with mental problems would subject the individuals to a great risk.
Deleon and Waggins (2007) are opposed to the idea of allowing psychologists to prescribe because it is hard to restructure the training undertaken by psychologists to equip them with prescription skills. Besides, it would be hard to measure the performance of psychologists as prescribers. Allowing psychologists to prescribe medication would lead to unnecessary costs.
For instance, to cater for the incurred costs in case of wrong prescriptions, insurance companies would hike their malpractice premiums. This move in return would add to the cost of services offered by psychologists, as they would increase their charges to cater for the premiums.
Adams, K., & Bieliauskas, L. (1994). On perhaps becoming what you had previously despised: Psychologists as prescribers of medication. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 1, 189-197.
Deleon, P., & Waggins, J. (2007). Prescription privileges for psychologists. American Psychology, 51, 225-229.
Hayes, S., & Heiby, E. (1996). Psychology’s drug problem: Do we need a fix or should we just say no? American Psychologist, 51, 198-206.
Kohn, L., Corrigan, J., & Donaldson, M. (2000). To err is human: Building a safer health system. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Klusman, L. (1998). Military health care providers’ view on prescribing privileges for psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practices, 29, 223-229.
Miller, J. (2007). Clinical psychology in the veterans administration. American Psychology, 1, 181-189.
Pachman, J. (1996). The dawn of a revolution in mental health. American Psychologist, 51, 213-215.
Zimmerman, M., & Wienckowski, L. (1991). Revisiting health and mental health linkages: A policy whose time has come again. Journal of Public Health Policy, 12(4), 510-524.