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Safe Prescription Best Practices to Reduce Addiction Risk

Safe Prescription for Psychiatrists: A Guide to Reducing Addiction Risk


Drug addiction from psychiatric medication has been a problem for quite some time. This is so because mental healthcare providers often prescribe addictive meds when something less risky could have done the job. For example, while stimulants may cause addiction in ADHD patients, there are other much less addictive alternatives. There are also safer alternatives to benzodiazepines and conventional sleep medicines, among others.

Sadly, sales reps from these pharmaceutical companies visit providers, marketing their products as less addictive. But these sales reps might not always be completely honest, and there's a chance each product is just as addictive as the last. So, it's up to providers to be careful how they prescribe such pills.

What can we draw from this? Well, it's simple. Drug addiction could be minimized if providers refrain from prescribing these addictive pills so generously.

We can also see this in the opioid epidemic situation. 3 million Americans and 16 million people worldwide have suffered or are currently suffering from opioid addiction.

And here is why. While opioid may be effective in managing pain, it is tremendously addictive. Patients can get addicted within days, and the withdrawal symptoms are hard to suppress. Sadly, many healthcare providers continue to prescribe opioid medications to their patients. About 80% of heroin users in the US say they got into it after they started using opioid medication.

The same applies to psychiatric prescriptions that are addictive. So, how can providers ensure their patient’s safety?

How to Ensure Safe Prescription and Reduce Drug Addiction Risk

As providers, we owe our patients a duty of care: to provide safe solutions to their health problems without exposing them to greater risks. So, we have to be cautious when prescribing pills for them.

Here are best practices to ensure safe prescription as a healthcare provider:

  1. Accurate Diagnosis: Ensure a clear and accurate diagnosis before prescribing any medication. Tailor the treatment plan to the patient's specific condition.
  2. Appropriate Medication Selection: Choose medications that are appropriate for the patient's condition, considering factors like the patient's age, medical history, allergies, and potential drug interactions. Avoid prescribing risky meds when something less risky could have done the job.
  3. Evidence-Based Practice: Base prescribing decisions on the latest evidence from clinical trials, research studies, and reputable medical guidelines.
  4. Start Low and Go Slow: Begin with the lowest effective dose of the medication and gradually increase if needed. This approach helps to minimize the risk of adverse effects.
  5. Monitor Patient Response: Regularly monitor the patient's response to the medication, including its effectiveness and any adverse effects. Adjust the treatment plan accordingly.
  6. Avoid Polypharmacy: Minimize the number of medications prescribed whenever possible. Multiple medications can increase the risk of drug interactions and adverse effects.
  7. Consider Non-Pharmacological Interventions: Explore non-pharmacological interventions, such as lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, or behavioral therapies, before resorting to medication, especially for conditions where these interventions could be effective.
  8. Patient Education: Educate the patient about the medication, its purpose, potential side effects, and proper usage. This empowers patients to make informed decisions and report any issues promptly.
  9. Allergy and Interaction Checks: Thoroughly review the patient's allergies and potential drug interactions before prescribing a new medication. Use electronic health records and prescription databases to assist in this process.
  10. Review Current Medications: Consider the patient's current medication regimen to avoid duplications, drug interactions, or medications that may worsen existing conditions.
  11. Consider Renal and Hepatic Function: Adjust the medication dose in patients with impaired kidney or liver function to prevent toxicity or suboptimal efficacy.
  12. Pediatric and Geriatric Considerations: Consider age-related factors when prescribing. Dosing and medication choices may differ between older adults and younger people.
  13. Write Prescriptions Clearly: Ensure you write prescriptions clearly and legibly, including the medication name, strength, dosage form, route of administration, and dosing instructions, to avoid misunderstandings.
  14. Electronic Prescribing: Use electronic prescribing systems when available, as they can reduce errors related to handwriting and streamline communication between healthcare providers and pharmacies.
  15. Regular Medication Review: Periodically review your patient's medication regimen to assess whether it is working or should be discontinued.
  16. Documentation: Maintain accurate medical records, documenting the rationale for medication choices, discussions with the patient, and any adverse events.
  17. Continuing Medical Education: Stay up-to-date with the latest developments in pharmacology and prescription guidelines through ongoing medical education. New studies are carried out daily, and better treatment methods are developed.
  18. Collaboration: Communicate and collaborate with other healthcare providers involved in the patient's care to ensure a comprehensive approach and avoid conflicts in medication plans.


More often than not, our patients put not just their well-being but their life as a whole in our hands. We owe it to them to be careful when prescribing psychiatric meds for them. They deserve the best for the trust they put in us.

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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