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Overmedication is an inappropriate medical treatment that occurs when a patient takes unnecessary or excessive medications. This may happen because the prescriber is unaware of other medications the patient is already taking, because of drug interactions with another chemical or target population, because of human error, because of undiagnosed medical conditions or because of conflicts of interest in the pharmaceutical industry, creating-over promotion (via advertising campaigns, sales to private practice Doctors, or biased or altered medical studies) causing widespread unnecessary use of a specific medicine, or unnecessary dosage of a medicine, due to excessive profit motives in the pharmaceutical industry. This is also sometimes described as the commercialization of medicine.

Overmedication can also occur when consumers take more medication than is prescribed or as labeled on over-the-counter (OTC) products—either intentionally or unintentionally—or when consumers unknowingly take both prescription and nonprescription drug products containing the same active ingredients. For example, overmedication[dubious ] (in the form of acute overdose) can occur when a prescription drug like Vicodin, which contains both hydrocodone and acetaminophen, is taken along with the nonprescription product Tylenol, which contains acetaminophen as the active ingredient. In other words, overmedication can be caused by both prescribers and consumers or their caretakers.

Another important instance of overmedication occurs when consumers are either prescribed or take additional prescribed or OTC drugs which produce the same or similar therapeutic effects. For instance, if a patient is taking a prescription strength ibuprofen product and also uses a naprosyn product—whether prescription or OTC strength—this, too, can constitute overmedication, can be dangerous, and can be costly to the patient in overall health care costs.[medical citation needed] Often consumers/patients overmedicate themselves by taking their medications at shorter intervals than prescribed or than container labels specify. As a result, medications may accumulate at higher levels, causing undesired side effects, sometimes serious, or even fatal. Such situations are often reversed through targeted deprescribing by members of the medical team.

Persons who feel that they are overmedicated tend to not to follow their physician's instructions for taking their medication.[1]


The overmedication of children has dramatically risen with those between the ages of 2 and 5 years old who are being prescribed atypical antipsychotics for bipolar disorders, developmental disabilities, ADHD, and behavior disorders.[2] Drug companies have benefited considerably with profits made in sales for drugs such as stimulants for hyperactive children, with half a million children in the United States receiving medication.[3][obsolete source] Children have become more involved with technology resulting in less play time outside and less time spent with parents. The long hours children spend with technology has impacted their attachment development, sensory and motor development, along with socialization skills, in return causing behavioral and psychological disorders and learning disabilities being diagnosed by psychotropic medication.[4]

According to recent data from IMS health one of the leading services for data distribution in health care, 274,000 infants (0 to 1) are on anti-anxiety drugs, and 26,000 under a year old are on antidepressants. This is only a fraction of the millions of children 5 to 12 being prescribed these same drugs. While these drugs can provide relief from some symptoms the children may suffer, psychiatric drugs have been shown in some instances to worsen the symptoms of mental illness and can cause adverse physical effects such as liver damage, weight gain, decreased cognitive function and dependency on the drug. (1) Antidepressants have side effects that can include suicidal thoughts and worsening depression. These medications can have long lasting effects on the children and these risks need to be taken into consideration. [5]

It's important for parents to monitor their child's behavior and regulate their environment in order to help prevent any future affective disorders. Medication is often prescribed to these children however, it alone will not teach a child to create more valuable relationships at home or in the community. Other forms of intervention can be applied to supplement the effects of medication therapy and teach the child self-regulatory behaviors and healthy coping skills.[6] The increase of psychiatric medication of children may be a result of the declining support for caregiving, leading to psychopathology in which drugs are oftentimes the go to method of treatment.[2] Families do not always have knowledge regarding or the means to pursue other methods of intervention such as one-on-one therapy with the child, family therapy and parenting counseling that can teach effective parenting strategies to meet their child's specific needs. There is debate that healthcare professionals have been put under pressure to perform proficiently causing the influence of piecemeal polypharmacy.[7]


A related issue is overprescription, which occurs when doctors give prescription drugs to patients who do not need them. Antibiotics are a common example,[8] as are narcotic painkillers.[9] Aggressive marketing by drug companies is sometimes cited as a reason for overprescription.[10]


  1. ^ Fincke, Benjamin Graeme; Miller, Donald R.; Spiro, Avron (March 1998). "The interaction of patient perception of overmedication with drug compliance and side effects". Journal of General Internal Medicine. 13 (3): 182–185. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.1998.00053.x. PMC 1496921Freely accessible. 
  2. ^ a b Robbins, Brent. "The overmedication of our youth: An interview with Brent Dean Robbins, PhD". Society for Humanistic Psychology. American Psychological Association. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  3. ^ Gittelman, Martin (1979). "Introduction: Refining Diagnosis and Behavioral Intervention: Key to Preventing Overmedication". International Journal of Mental Health. 8: 3–9. JSTOR 41350662. 
  4. ^ Rowan, Cris (2010). "Unplug-Don't Drug: A Critical Look at the Influence of Technology on Child Behavior with an Alternative Way of Responding other than Evaluation and Drugging". Ethical Human Psychology & Psychiatry. 12: 61. doi:10.1891/1559-4343.12.1.60. 
  5. ^ Wilkinson, Allen P. "Mental Illness in Children." Pediatrics for Parents 28.1 (2012): 12-4. ProQuest. Web. 2 July 2017.
  6. ^ Luvmour, Josette (2011). "Nurturing Children's Well-Being: A Developmental Response to Trends of Overdiagnosis and Overmedication". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 51 (3): 350–368. doi:10.1177/0022167810386958. 
  7. ^ Zakriski, Audrey L.; Wheeler, Elizabeth; Burda, Jeffrey; Shields, Ann (February 2005). "Justifiable Psychopharmacology or Overzealous Prescription? Examining Parental Reports of Lifetime Prescription Histories of Psychiatrically Hospitalized Children". Child and Adolescent Mental Health. 10 (1): 16–22. doi:10.1111/j.1475-3588.2005.00111.x. 
  8. ^ "U.S. Doctors Still Over-Prescribing Drugs: Survey". Webmd.com. Retrieved 2017-04-06. 
  9. ^ Editor, Health (2016-03-28). "Almost All U.S. Doctors Are Overprescribing Narcotic Painkillers, Research Suggests - Chronic Pain". Health.com. Retrieved 2017-04-06. 
  10. ^ "America's epidemic of over-prescribing | Cory Franklin | US news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-04-06. 

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