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Medical treatments can produce many effects on the individuals that use them; some are helpful, while others are potentially harmful and unwanted. The manifestation of desirable, beneficial effects in the body that come about as a result of a medical treatment is referred to as a therapeutic response. This type of response does not have to be expected, and may even be completely unintentional, but it is considered to be therapeutic as long as it is a helpful response that contributes to a desired outcome.
A therapeutic response to a medical treatment, such as taking a certain medication, can change based on the reason that the treatment is used. For example, an individual taking aspirin for their heart would consider the therapeutic effect to be the prevention of heart attacks. When aspirin is taken for a headache, however, the desired result would be a reduction in pain.
Many factors, both physical and psychological, can influence the results of medical treatments, and therefore they affect the therapeutic response, as well. Often, these factors can include other drugs that a person is taking, whether or not they are being taken for medicinal purposes. For example, research conducted at the University of Glasgow found that individuals that smoke cigarettes generally do not derive as much benefit from taking steroid medications for asthma. They may also include other non-drug medical procedures, such as the combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat cancerous tumors.
Other factors that may influence the therapeutic response can involve biological elements such as diet, personal genetics, other medical conditions, and weight. Psychological factors can impact the therapeutic effect of a treatment as well, and this phenomenon is commonly known as the placebo effect. The belief that a given medical treatment will have beneficial, desirable results can, under some conditions, increase the chance of such results occurring.
Many times, the concept is applied solely to medications, but it is important to note that it may actually apply to any medical treatment that has a desired outcome. Benefits from practices like hypnosis or psychotherapy, for example, may be influenced by the psychological belief that such treatments will be effective. Medical procedures such as surgery may also have their therapeutic effect influenced by physical or psychological factors. For this reason, the term may be used in reference to all medical treatments.
The problem with anti-depressants and therapeutic response is that not every medication works for everyone in the same way. Medications that produce a great therapeutic response in one person may not do anything for another person -- and may even worsen the depression.
It can be a tricky balance finding the right combinations of medications to get the right response. Of course, that's true with many medications and especially if someone is taking meds for different conditions. A doctor's challenge is to make sure the medications are producing a good therapeutic response without interacting with anything else the patient is taking.
Another term you hear is "therapeutic levels." This is when a medication has to build up in the body to produce a therapeutic response, or, in the case of a drug screen, that a particular drug is found at levels in the body one would expect from the person taking the drug as prescribed.
A lot of anti-depressants have to build up to therapeutic levels, and so does thyroid medication, in order to get a therapeutic response. You can't just start someone on a high dose of thyroid medication. You have to ramp up the dose until the blood level shows an acceptable TSH, T1 and T3 response. Then, you've got the appropriate therapeutic response.
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