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What is Drug Therapy?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 28, 2024
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Therapy can be defined as the attempted treatment or remediation of a physical or mental disease or defect. There are many types of therapy, including mental health therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. Essentially any form of treatment is therapy, and drug therapy is treatment that involves using medications, usually on a consistent basis to treat disease.

Drug therapy can take many different forms. People who get strep throat might have antibiotic therapy for a few weeks to cure the condition. A person with a heart defect or who has had heart surgery requires prophylactic drug treatment with antibiotics prior to having dental procedures, and this helps to prevent developing serious illness in the heart called bacterial endocarditis. When someone has cancer, they might have chemotherapy, the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells.

Sometimes the term is used in context of taking medications to treat mental illnesses. This is often how it’s understood, even though this definition is far too narrow. Many forms of mental illness benefit from medications that have often been specifically designed to help restore people to better mental function.

Unlike taking antibiotics or using something like chemotherapy, drug therapy for mental conditions has long endured stigma. It is still difficult for many people to understand that mental illness is indeed, a physical illness. This has made a number of people extremely reluctant to try medications, even when they are miserable. It is viewed as weak to need medicines for mental conditions.

This attitude is changing but it may still be pervasive among certain sectors of the population. In particular, those who grew up when few drug therapies were available for mental illness may be reluctant to endorse them now. This is unfortunate because attitudes of these people may influence the degree to their children will seek drug therapy or they may make people use medicines feel as though they are doing something wrong.

Suspicions about medications doesn’t have to stem from the idea that drugs represent weakness. It can also come from people’s inherent distrust of the intent of pharmaceutical companies, and some of this distrust is justified. There have been instances where drug companies have buried relevant and negative information during testing and not fully represented risks/benefits of taking a medication. It is a profit-based industry. Despite this fact, there are many drug therapies that are life saving and are able to fully restore wellness in those who are very ill.

One common behavior among the many, who take medicines, particularly if they are suspicious about them, is that they will discontinue them as soon as they feel better. This is greatly damaging under many circumstances. Failure to take all antibiotics, for instance, may cause an infection to worsen. Certainly, discontinuing psychiatric medications will result in a return of symptoms.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By surfNturf — On Dec 06, 2010

Moldova-It is really hard to give kids these drugs but at the same time parents may not have any other options.

A great resource that discusses ADHD drug therapy is CHADD. They are a support group for children and families afflicted with this condition.

I want to say that sometimes drug therapy is necessary to improve one’s quality of life.

For example cancer therapy gives a person a chance of survival while therapy for depression also aids in improving one’s state of mind.

Many people that suffer from depression would not be alive if it were not for drug therapy. It is the drug that allows them to function normally in society and live a fulfilling life.

By Moldova — On Dec 05, 2010

Crispety-Some parents are opposed to the use of drug therapy and instead prefer the cognitive behavior therapy along with changing the child’s diet.

Processed foods, food rich in food coloring, sugary foods, and caffeine should be limited if not avoided altogether.

Because ADHD is a condition that varies in degrees some children may not need the drugs and their parents will be successful with the drug free therapy.

By Crispety — On Dec 02, 2010

ADHD drug therapy often includes prescribing the drugs Ritalin or Concentra.

Both of these drugs allow the child to focus and concentrate at the tasks at hand. They also become less aggressive and begin to display a calm demeanor as a result of these drugs.

Usually when treating children for this affliction a combination therapy approach is normally warranted.

A child will receive drug therapy in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. With cognitive behavioral therapy the child learns behavior modification techniques that will help the child cope with stressful circumstances or situations when they seem to need the most help.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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