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Psychiatric medication

Psychiatric medication is a licenced psychoactive drug taken to exert an effect on the mental state and used to treat mental disorders. Usually utilized in psychiatric settings, these medications are made of synthetic chemical compounds, although some are naturally occurring.



Prescription psychiatric medications, like any prescription medication, usually require a prescription from a physician, such as a psychiatrist, before it can be obtained. Some U.S. states and territories, following the creation of the prescriptive authority for psychologists movement, have granted prescriptive privileges to clinical psychologists that have undergone additional training.[1]


Main article: Psychopharmacology

Psychopharmacology studies a wide range of substances with various types of psychoactive properties, though the professional and commercial fields of pharmacology and psychopharmacology don't typically focus on psychedelic or recreational drugs; the majority of studies are conducted on psychiatric medication. While studies are conducted on all psychoactives by both fields, psychopharmacology focuses primarily on the psychoactive and chemical interactions with the brain. Physicians who research psychiatric medications are psychopharmacologists, specialists in the field of psychopharmacology.

Side effects

Psychiatric medications sometimes have adverse side effects that may reduce patients' drug compliance. Some of these side effects can be further treated by using other drugs such as anticholinergic (antimuscarinic) medications. Some side effects, including the possibility of a sudden or severe re-emergence of psychotic features, may appear when the patient stops taking the drug, particularly if a drug is suddenly discontinued instead of slowly tapered off.[1]


See also: List of psychiatric medications and List of psychiatric medications by condition treated

There are four main groups of psychotropic medication. These are the anxiolytic/hypnotics, the antipsychotics, the mood stabilisers and the antidepressants. Additionally, there are various other miscellaneous types of medications, such as those used in the treatment of substance misuse and dementia.


Main article: Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics are drugs that are used in the treatment of various symptoms of psychosis, such as those caused by Psychotic Disorders or Schizophrenia. Antipsychotics are also sometimes used as mood stabilizers, most frequently to help manage such disorders as Bipolar disorder, even if no symptoms of psychosis are present. Antipsychotics may also be referred to as neuroleptic drugs and some antipsychotics are branded as major tranquilizers.

There are two categories of Antipsychotics, typical antipsychotics and atypical antipsychotics, and due to the nature of the drugs the majority of them require a verifiable prescription from a licensed physician.

Common Antipsychotics[2]:


Main article: Antidepressants

Antidepressants are drugs used in the treatment of clinical depression, and they are also often used for anxiety and other disorders. Most antidepressants will restrain the metabolism of serotonin and/or norepinephrine. Such drugs are called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), and they actively attempt to prevent the aforementioned neurotransmitters from dropping to the levels at which depression is experienced. SSRIs will often take 3-5 weeks to have a noticeable effect, due to the inability of the brain to process the flood of serotonin and it reacts by downregulating the sensitivity of the autoreceptors, which can take up to 5 weeks. Currently, Bi-functional SSRIs are being researched, which will occupy the autoreceptors, bypassing the 'throttling' of serotonin. Another type of antidepressant is a Monoamine oxidase inhibitor, which are thought to block the actions of MAO, an enzyme which assists in the breakdown of serotonin and norepinephrine. MAOI's are typically only used in the event that a tricyclic antidepressant or SSRI fails to prevent or exacerbates depression.

Common Antidepressants[3][4]:

Mood stabilizers

Main article: Mood stabilizers

In 1949, the Australian John Cade discovered that lithium salts could control mania, reducing the frequency and severity of manic episodes. This introduced the now popular drug Lithium carbonate to the mainstream public, as well as being the first mood stabilizer to be approved by the Food & Drug Administration. Many antipsychotics are used as mood stabilizers, although typically the first resort would be a standard mood stabilizer such as Lithium carbonate. Many mood stabilizers, with the exception of Lithium, are anticonvulsants.

Common Mood Stabilizers[5]:


Main article: Stimulants

Stimulants are some of the most widely prescribed drugs today. A stimulant is any drug that stimulates the central nervous system. Adderall®, a collection of Amphetamine salts, is one of the most prescribed pharmaceuticals in the treatment of ADHD. Typically prescribed to treat adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and an increasingly amount of adults, it is very common as a treatment. Patients respond differently to each drug. Most frequently used are timed-release mediums but if such a method doesn't work there are many options to try. Stimulants have the potential to be addictive and patients with a history of drug abuse are typically monitored closely or even barred from the usage and given an alternative. Discontinuing treatment without tapering the dosage is not advisable.

Common Stimulants[6]:

Anxiolytics & Hypnotics

Barbiturates were first used as hypnotics and as anxiolytics, but as time went on, safer benzodiazepines (Lowell Randall and Leo Sternbach, 1957) were developed in the 1960s and 1970s. Eventually they led to billions of doses being consumed annually, but as prescriptions were increasing, even more was the abuse of them.

Common Anxiolytics & Hypnotics:

See also


  1. ^ Murray, Bridget (October, 2003). A Brief History of RxP. APA Monitor. Retrieved on 4/11/2007.
  2. ^ Stephen M. Stahl, M.D., Ph.D.; et al (2004). "A Review of the Neuropharmacology of Bupropion, a Dual Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor" (pdf). Journal of Clinical Psychiatry; 6(04) 159-166 2004 PHYSICIANS POSTGRADUATE PRESS, INC. Retrieved on 2006-09-02.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Psychiatric_medication". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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