Psychiatric Drugs: Effects, Uses and Side Effects

Main Classes of Psychiatric Drugs

SSRIs. Prozac -fluoxetine – is one of many newer generation psychiatric drugs for depression.

The three major types of antidepressants are: SSRIs (selective seretonin reuptake inhibitors) MAOIs and tricyclic antidepressants. The SSRIs are the newest, have less side effects than older antidepressants and the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

SSRIs include: fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft) paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro) fluvoxamine (Luvox).

Other types of antidepressants are serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs are similar to SSRIs and include venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta). Another antidepressant that is commonly used is bupropion (Wellbutrin). Bupropion, which works on the neurotransmitter dopamine, is unique in that it does not fit into any specific drug type.

Antidepressants are used to treat depression, but also are used for generalized anxiety disorder, agitation, obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD), manic-depressive disorders, childhood enuresis (bedwetting), major depressive disorder, diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain, neuropathic pain, social anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) etc. Some off- label uses of antidepressants include, but are not limited to: fibromyalgia, chronic urticaria (hives), hot flashes, hyperhidrosis (drug-induced), pruritus (itching), premenstrual symptoms, bulimia nervosa, Tourette syndrome, binge eating disorder, [anorexia], etc.

Ativan – lorazepam. Common antianxiety medication.
Antianxiety Drugs (minor tranquilizers)

Most of the medications used to treat anxiety or promote sleep are classed as benzodiazepines, which include familiar brand names like Xanax (alpazolam) and Valium (diazepam), along with several others. Some drugs in other categories, such as antidepressants, may also have a sedating effect. They are also referred to as sedatives.

Some other sedatives are: Klonopin. Librium, Nembutal, Seconal, Ativan, Tranxene.

Side effects of sedatives can be, addiction, which is described as the main risk–“and it’s a big one”. “Overdoses (accidental or not) are common, particularly when alcohol is consumed too.” [3]

Antipsychotic drugs:

Haldol haloperidol – A typical antipsychotic drug with very strong side effects. One of the
Typical Antipsychotic Drugs

Older class of drugs also known as Major Tranquilizers. Drugs such as what are commonly known as Prolixin (fluphenazine), Haldol (haloperidol) and the first psychiatric drug to be used in psychiatry facilities in the late 1950s, Thorazine (chlorpromazine), are among these typical antipsychotics. These drugs are commonly used to treat schizophrenia, paranoia, hallucinations and psychoses. They also have other uses.

Typical antipsychotics include:
Haldol, Loxitane, Thorazine, Prolixin.

Side Effects are described as “numerous,” and include, involuntary muscle movements, weight gain, cardiac symptoms, seizures, lethargy, sometimes extreme lethargy, low blood pressure. [3]

Zyprexa – Atypical antipsychotics. Since 1994, atypical antipsychotics have been commonly used. Side effects not as strong, but some have come under fire for causing weight gain and diabetes, resulting in some deaths.
Atypical Antipsychotic drugs

Used since 1994, these have the same uses as the typical antipsychotics, but with fewer intense side effects. Some have come under criticism and lawsuits for contributing to weight gain, diabetes and subsequent death. They are commonly used for bipolar disorder as well.

Some atypical antipsychotics are:
Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa

Side Effects:
While side effects of atypical antipsychotics are less than those of typical antipsychotics, there can also be severe, very pronounced and difficult to deal with. In addition to physical side effects such as weight gain and subsequent diabetes, lethargy, drowsiness, feeling emotional disconnected and extreme drowsiness, can be some of the common side effects of atypical antipsychotics.

Mood Stabilizing Drugs

The first mood stabilizer to be used was lithium, and it is the only drug that was developed specifically for use in bipolar disorder. Most the other drugs classified as mood stabilizers are medications that were first used to treat seizure disorders, such as epilepsy. They are known as “anticonvulsants,” since they are designed to inhibit or reduce the frequency of seizures. Interestingly, they also help stabilize mood swings. Some heart-related medications called calcium channel blockers are being studied for use in treating bipolar disorder as mood stabilizers.

Lithium, Lamotrigine, Lamictal, Depakote, Tegretol, Neurontin, Topamax.

Side Effects:
Tremors, weight gain, headaches, sleepiness, rashes, vomiting, dizziness, liver toxicity, abnormal blood counts. [3]

Stimulant Drugs
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is the most widely known stimulant, used for ADHD symptoms.
Stimulants are commonly used in treating ADHD but also have other uses. Some of those uses are narcolepsy, also, obesity, fatigue and sometimes depression.

Stimulants such as amphetamines, methlyphenidate (Ritalin-a little different than an amphetamine), and other stimulants are commonly prescribed, mostly with children and teens, but also with adults.

The work by increasing the level of norepniephrine and dopamine in the brain; some also trigger release of these chemicals from storage areas in cells. Different stimulants have slightly different mechanisms for raising the level of these neurotransmitters.

Side Effects:
Some of the side effects and complications of stimulant drugs can be, addiction, chest pains, cardiac problems, deaths from undetected congenital cardiac problems, impulsiveness, mood swings, insomnia, weight loss, or in some sever situations, delusions and schizophrenic-like symptoms.

Drugs for psychological disorders page references:

1. Drugs uses, side effects. (Retrieved June 25, 2009). RX List.

2. Medications to treat depression. (June 15, 2009). NIMH.

3. Kluger, J., (2009). Medicine Chest for the Mind. Your Brain: A User’s Guide. Time. p. 55.

Photo: Haldol – Kaohsiung Municipal Hsiao-Kang Hospital.

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