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Drug Therapies

16 February, 2016 - 09:24

Psychologists understand that an appropriate balance of neurotransmitters in the brain is necessary for mental health. If there is a proper balance of chemicals, then the person’s mental health will be acceptable, but psychological disorder will result if there is a chemical imbalance. The most frequently used biological treatments provide the patient with medication that influences the production and reuptake of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system (CNS). The use of these drugs is rapidly increasing, and drug therapy is now the most common approach to treatment of most psychological disorders.

Unlike some medical therapies that can be targeted toward specific symptoms, current psychological drug therapies are not so specific; they don’t change particular behaviors or thought processes, and they don’t really solve psychological disorders. However, although they cannot “cure” disorder, drug therapies are nevertheless useful therapeutic approaches, particularly when combined with psychological therapy, in treating a variety of psychological disorders. The best drug combination for the individual patient is usually found through trial and error (Biedermann & Fleischhacker, 2009). 1

The major classes and brand names of drugs used to treat psychological disorders are shown in Table 13.2

Table 13.2 Common Medications Used to Treat Psychological Disorders



Brand names





Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine

Attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Very effective in most cases, at least in the short term, at reducing hyperactivity and inattention



Elavil, Tofranil

Depression and anxiety disorders

Less frequently prescribed today than are the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Monamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

Ensam, Nardil, Parnate, Marpaln

Depression and anxiety disorders

Less frequently prescribed today than are the SSRIs


Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft

Depression and anxiety disorders

The most frequently prescribed antidepressant medications; work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin

Other reuptake inhibitors

Effexor, Celexa, Wellbutrin

Depression and anxiety disorders

Prescribed in some cases; work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine

Mood stabilizers


Eskalith, Lithobid, Depakene

Bipolar disorder

Effective in reducing the mood swings associated with bipolar disorder

Antianxiety drugs



Valium, Xanax

Anxiety, panic, and mood disorders

Work by increasing the action of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)

Anti-psychotics (Neuro-leptics)


Thorazine, Haldol, Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa


Treat the positive and, to some extent, the negative symptoms of schizophrenia by reducing the transmission of dopamine and increasing the transmission of serotonin