NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Mexico to Allow Drug Treatment By Psychologists

March 22, 2002

New Mexico has become the first U.S. state to allow psychologists to prescribe drugs, reports the British Medical Journal, pitting psychologists against psychiatrists in a move that may be followed by other states.

Clinical psychologists hold doctoral degrees and have extensive training in psychotherapy but are not medically qualified. In all 50 states, psychotropic drugs can be prescribed by psychiatrists or any other medical doctor.

  • The American Psychological Association has been lobbying since 1984 for bills to allow psychologists to prescribe psychiatric drugs, arguing that it is more cost effective for patients to receive their psychotherapy and drug treatment from one practitioner.
  • Before New Mexico's act, only Guam has allowed psychologists to prescribe drugs, since 1998.
  • Psychologists have argued that a shortage of psychiatrists in New Mexico leads to long waits for mental health services -- resulting in a suicide rate among New Mexicans aged 15-24 is 75 percent higher than the national average.

After psychologists undergo additional training and pass a national exam, they will be issued a limited license allowing them to prescribe drugs for two years under an M.D.'s supervision, then can apply for an independent license.

Psychiatrists argue that giving psychologists prescribing privileges is bad medicine.

Source: Deborah Josefso, "Psychologists allowed to prescribe drugs for mental illness," British Medical Journal, March 23, 2002.


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