Polypharmacy: causes and consequences

by Dr V. R. Badrakalimuthu


Last updated: June 2017 by Dr Balarao Oruganti


In the diseases of the mind…it is an art of no little importance to administer medicines properly; but, it is an art of much greater importance and more difficult acquisition to know when to suspend or altogether omit them.’  Philippe Pinel


Steven Stahl describes polypharmacy as a ‘dirty little secret’ and ‘…polypharmacy thus seems to be something everybody does and nobody admits’ (Stahl, 1999). Polypharmacy has increased manifold in the last 30 years.


However, it is important to remember that most medical conditions are treated with more than one medication. Psychiatric disorders are no less complex than physical illnesses, and there is a specific clinical role for polypharmacy in the management of the most difficult-to-treat and resistant psychiatric disorders.


The aim of this module is to familiarise and involve psychiatrists in the debate on polypharmacy, with particular regard to the balance between benefits and harms using multiple drugs.


Start the module



If you like this module, you may also be interested in:


Physical healthcare in severe mental illness by Dr Steve Brown


The pharmacological management of anxiety disorders by Dr Zia Nadeem and Dr Allan Scott


The pharmacological treatment of resistant depression by Professor Phillip J. Cowen



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