Complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) and adherence to mental health medications

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2014 Mar 10:14:93. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-14-93.


Background: Medication regimes are often poorly adhered to, and the negative consequences of this are well recognised. The dynamics underlying non-adherence are less understood. This paper examines adherence to prescription medications for mental health difficulties in relation to the use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs). This was based on suggestions that within medical pluralism, CAMs may reduce adherence to conventional prescription medications for reasons such as their further complicating the medication regime or their being perceived as a substitute with less adverse side effects than conventional prescription medications.

Methods: Data used was from the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R), specifically those 1396 individuals who reported taking a prescription drug for mental health difficulties within the last 12 months and under the supervision of a health professional. This subsample was selected due to their being the only subgroup questioned regarding their medication adherence. Other demographic and health factors were also considered.

Results: The use of complementary medicines alongside the conventional medicines bore no significant relation to odds of reporting adherence versus non adherence. Ethnicity and medication count were significant predictors of adherence versus non-adherence.

Conclusions: The above findings are discussed from the point of both promoting the use of CAMs and increasing health professionals' understanding of the dynamics underlying adherence, or the lack thereof, and subsequently informing interventions to reduce the problems associated with this issue in terms of increased health care needs and reduced quality of life.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence*
  • Middle Aged
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Quality of Life
  • Young Adult


  • Plant Extracts
  • Psychotropic Drugs