6 MIN READ | Health Psychology

Elena Deeley

How Medication Errors Can Affect Your Mental Health

Cite This
Elena Deeley, (2020, December 24). How Medication Errors Can Affect Your Mental Health. Psychreg on Health Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/medication-errors-mental-health/
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Medication errors are common problems in most healthcare systems and frequent clinical lapses. These are associated with costs and morbidity based on medical research. A medication error is one category of medical errors that refer to any mistake in diagnosis and treatment. At the same time, a medication error is referred to as a mistake in prescribing, transcribing, or administering the medication. Mistake or missed diagnosis is the common cause of this problem. There are different types of medical errors in today’s healthcare systems. These can be acts of commission, omission, or near-misses. Errors of commission refer to wrong actions being taken. For instance, wrong surgery, prescribing patients a medication they are allergic to and giving an inappropriate dosage. 

On the other hand, the act of omission is a failure to do the right action. The examples are missed care, delay in treatment, and failure to respond to an emergency. Lastly, the near-misses are situations where errors were prevented. When a nurse is about to administer an antibiotic but figured out that it’s for his next patient next door, this is an example of this scenario. The impacts of medication errors can severely damage our overall well-being. The first thing that might cross your mind is physical damage. Taking incorrect medication would also affect a person’s mental system due to implications. In this writing, let’s highlight the side effects of this problem on an individual’s mental health. 

You may develop a depression

This impact can be experienced by the person who has a direct encounter with medication errors or by the family members. If the patient had experienced severe physical health problems, it is certainly a traumatic experience. People with medical health issues, especially those with serious illnesses, are already emotionally challenged. The treatment and medications should be their refuge. Anything that goes wrong with the prescribed medications due to negligence and lack of knowledge can severely impact the patient’s mental health. If the side effects trigger more pain or impact a person’s mobility, these can be stressful and can cause them to feel despair and sadness. 

In extreme cases, medication errors can lead to a patient’s severe injury or death. Seeing your loved one suffering is indeed a challenging time for the whole family. The experts from www.drugguardians.com highlight the importance of knowing your legal rights to recover damages and compensation. In some cases, medication errors lead to a loss of a loved one, a very devastating and traumatic experience. Moving on from a traumatic experience is a tough thing to do and commonly results in situational depression. Knowing that a death could have been prevented is much harder to accept. Patient’s family members can file a lawsuit to a healthcare institution where the healthcare provider is employed and to other liable organizations. Seeking justice is the best thing you can do and be compensated for the losses. 

Anxiety

Patients and medical practitioners may suffer from this effect after the medication error incident. The consequences of medication error run from no notable side effects up to death, and below are the possible impacts that can be experienced by the involved parties.

Healthcare providers

Physicians and other providers may feel adverse emotions, including shame, guilt, fear, and sometimes depression. Regardless if it’s an unintentional mistake, a medical practitioner may still feel poor emotional well-being. The incident can also affect the confidence that can lead to questioning their knowledge and expertise. Doctors and nurses who give the wrong medication to patients may suffer self-doubt that may lead to other mental problems. This is commonly referred to as the second victim, and in some cases, it is also life-threatening. There were recorded incidents from the past of committed suicides of nurses and doctors after medication errors have occurred. To prevent and to cope with this problem, strong support from colleagues and management is highly recommended. Aside from psychological effects, it can also cause severe financial losses to health care providers and other involved organizations. Licenses might be at stake too. 

Patients

After suffering the side effects of a medication error, it is expected for patients to experience fear and anxiety in their subsequent treatment. Losing trust in their doctors and nurses is a typical result. They are starting to doubt their knowledge and expertise and may lead to skipping their medications. Negative thoughts may linger on their minds that something might go wrong, just their previous experience. 

How do medication errors happen?

Hospitals are the most common place where medication errors usually happen. Based on several studies, the increase is not surprising in recent years because new drugs have emerged that are more complex, and the factors affecting the risk of medical errors have also increased. This incident can happen to anyone at any place, including clinics, pharmacies, senior living facilities, and even at your own home. Kids are more high risk because of different dosages from adults. This incident occurs most likely when there is poor communication between the doctors, patients, and doctors, medical abbreviations, and drug names that sound alike. 

The risks of inadequate information are one of the causes of this problem. Both parties should have effective communication right from the start, and patients should be honest in disclosing the medical conditions. Make sure to ask questions about your prescription and dosage to ensure that you have the right understanding. The guidance of a family member is highly recommended for patients who are seriously ill and too stressed to know the medication details. Knowing the common causes of medication errors can help you to prevent experiencing this unfortunate situation. 

How to prevent medication errors?

As mentioned above, being truthful from the start is essential to avoid this trouble. Patients and healthcare professionals have responsibilities to ensure smooth treatment and medications are done. One way to reduce risks is to be active to take care of your health. Knowledge is also your best defence at all times. If your doctor prescribed you new sets of medications, make sure to know and understand the explanation. It is also best to know the generic name, how it can help you, possible side effects, dosage, and the duration you need to take the drugs. Ask if some foods and activities are not allowed for you during the treatment, possible interference with your other medications, and what you should do if you miss a dose.

It’s also vital to have your medical records properly documented, including all prescriptions. Most of the healthcare providers saved patients’ records on their database. You may ask for a copy of these so you can keep track of your progress. It’s best to ask for a printed copy of the prescriptions rather than one handwritten by your doctor. This can prevent the risk of misinterpretation at the pharmacy counter.

Do not alter the dosage

To ensure you’ll get the true purpose of the medication, it’s vital to follow the recommended dosage as well as the duration. In some cases, altering the drug dosage leads to potential problems that may put your health at risk, including your physician’s career. Note that there is also a difference between chewable and non-chewable drugs. Don’t assume that chewing your pill is more effective rather than swallowing it. Refrain from an attempt to crush, split, or cut the pills unless the doctor advised you to do so. Some medications have been coated to protect the stomach. Make it a habit to read the label. It’s also essential to use the right spoon as instructed by the medical practitioner.

What to do after a medication error?

If the medical practitioner found out the error, it should be reported immediately to the higher management and let the patients know. Critical consequences could be lesser if the steps are done properly. Regardless of the range of the consequences, healthcare providers and doctors have the ethical duty to report whatever mistake being made. Making a mistake in medical practice is unacceptable, but not taking action to correct it is much worse.

As for the patient and family members, depending on the severity of the impact, it’s always your right to file a complaint or take the necessary legal actions. A thorough investigation should be done. Hospitals or healthcare facilities could face lawsuits and possible huge settlement costs. The management may also bear a decrease in productivity as well as the revenue due to a damaged reputation. 

Being involved in a medication error situation with severe implications is a very challenging and stressful event in your life. Whether a patient, family members, or healthcare professionals may suffer almost the same impacts, including sleepless nights, fear, stress, depression, and a lot more. Having medical errors is one of the most feared circumstances in medical practice. As for the patients’ side, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Severe repercussions can be prevented from affecting your life by making sure everything is clear and understood. This will save you from potential harm. You and your doctor should work together for a healthier you. 


Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.


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