A psychiatric or psychotropic medication is a psychoactive drug taken to exert an effect on the chemical makeup of the brain and nervous system. Thus, these medications are used to treat mental illnesses. These medications are typically made of synthetic chemical compounds and are usually prescribed in psychiatric settings, potentially involuntarily during commitment.
Since the mid-20th century, such medications have been leading treatments for a broad range of mental disorders and have decreased the need for long-term hospitalization, therefore, lowering the cost of mental health care.The recidivism or rehospitalization of the mentally ill is at a high rate in many countries and the reasons for the relapses are under research.
Several significant psychiatric drugs were developed in the mid-20th century. In 1948, lithium was first used as a psychiatric medicine. One of the most important discoveries was chlorpromazine, an antipsychotic that was first given to a patient in 1952. In the same decade, Julius Axelrod carried out research into the interaction of neurotransmitters, which provided a foundation for the development of further drugs.The popularity of these drugs have increased significantly since then, with millions prescribed annually.
The introduction of these drugs brought profound changes to the treatment of mental illness. It meant that more patients could be treated without the need for confinement in a psychiatric hospital. It was one of the key reasons why many countries moved towards deinstitutionalization, closing many of these hospitals so that patients could be treated at home, in general hospitals and smaller facilities.Use of physical restraints such as straitjackets also declined.
As of 2013, the 10 most prescribed psychiatric drugs by number of prescriptions were alprazolam, sertraline, citalopram, fluoxetine, lorazepam, trazodone, escitalopram, duloxetine, bupropion XL, and venlafaxine XR.
Psychiatric medications are prescription medications, requiring a prescription from a physician, such as a psychiatrist, or a psychiatric nurse practitioner, PMHNP, before they 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 who have undergone additional specialised education and training in medical psychology.
In addition to the familiar dosage in pill form, psychiatric medications are evolving into more novel methods of drug delivery. New technologies include transdermal, transmucosal, inhalation, suppository or depot injection supplements.
Adverse and withdrawal effects
Psychiatric disorders, including depression, psychosis, and bipolar disorder, are common and gaining more acceptance in the United States. The most commonly used classes of medications for these disorders are antidepressants, antipsychotics, and lithium. Unfortunately, these medications are associated with significant neurotoxicities.
Psychiatric medications carry risk for neurotoxic adverse effects. The occurrence of neurotoxic effects can potentially reduce drug compliance. Some adverse effects can be treated symptomatically by using adjunct medications such as anticholinergics (antimuscarinics). Some rebound or withdrawal adverse effects, such as the possibility of a sudden or severe emergence or re-emergence of psychosis in antipsychotic withdrawal, may appear when the drugs are discontinued, or discontinued too rapidly.