Review of Psychotropic Drugs

1707-21Psychopharmacology, in particular the introduction of new psychotropic agents, is perhaps the most rapidly growing area in all of clinical pharmacology. In recent years, important new drug introductions have revolutionized the treatment of various psychiatric disorders.

This progress has been made possible by advances in basic neuroscience and clinical research achieved during the past few decades. Recently introduced psychotropic drugs reflect an increased understanding of the biological/biochemical mechanisms of the psychiatric disorders they target.

This knowledge enables development of therapeutic agents with greater specificity for the molecular mechanisms involved, resulting in increased effectiveness and fewer untoward side effects. Psychotropic drug development continues at a rapid pace as the knowledge base of neuroscience and clinical research continues to expand. The Tables that follow summarize the current state of the art of psychotropic drugs available to clinicians.

In clinical medicine (as in the Tables), psychotropic medications are most usefully classified according to therapeutic applications, including:

  • anxiolytic agents for the treatment of anxiety disorders;
  • antipsychotics for the treatment of schizophrenia and psychoses; these drugs are sometimes referred to as neuroleptics because of characteristic side effects on cognition and behavior that mimic neurologic diseases (some newer, atypical antipsychotics demonstrate improved side-effect profiles);
  • drugs for mood (or affective) disorders, including antidepressants (mood-elevating agents) for the treatment of depression and mood-stabilizing agents for the treatment of manic (or bipolar) disorders; and
  • hypnotics for the induction of sleep.

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