WEEK 6: 14.02.10.
CHAPTER 14: THERAPIES
Module 14.3 Biomedical Therapies
Many mental health problems are caused in part by malfunctioning processes of
the nervous system thus treatments should target brain chemistry and activity of
Psychopharmacotherapy refers to the process of treating psychological disorders with
Psychotropic drugs are medications designed to alter psychological functioning.
Original drug treatments initiated in institutional and clinical settings, typically
for very severe cases
Drug treatments have now become mainstream
Psychotropic drugs have been developed to take many different courses of action
o All psychotropic drugs designed to cross bloodbrain barrier, a network
of tightly packed cells that only allow specific types of substances to move
from the bloodstream to the brain
o Drugs are also designed to affect one or more specific neurotransmitters
Antidepressants and Mood Stabilizers
Antidepressant drugs are medications prescribed to elevate mood and reduce other
symptoms of depression.
o Target areas of the brain that, when functioning normally, are rich in
monoamine neurotransmitters – serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine
o Multiple neurotransmitters involved, antidepressants come in many
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a type of antidepressant that deactivates
monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down serotonin, dopamine, and
o When MAO enzyme inhibited, fewer monoamine are metabolized
o Used less frequently than other antidepressants because it can have
dangerous interactions with fermented foods and other medications
Tricyclic antidepressants were among the earliest types of antidepressants on the market
and appear to work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine.
o Affects transmission of serotonin and norepinephrine but has many side
effects just like MAOIs
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressant drugs that
block the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
o SSRI side effects incl. loss of sexual interest and function but yet has less
adverse reactions than other antidepressants
1 Blocking neurotransmitter uptake is a hypothesis about how these drugs work
o Though, SSRI may do more than just block reuptake of serotonin; research
shows a connection with reduced hippocampal volume to depression
o SSRIs have shown to lead to neurogenesis – the growth of brandnew
neurons – in the hippocampus
o Once the drugs accomplish renewal, cognition and emotion resume normal
Drugs similar to SSRIs have been developed to inhibit reuptake of both serotonin
and norepinephrine (SNRIs)
Mood stabilizers are drugs used to prevent or reduce the manic side of bipolar disorder.
Lithium was one of the first mood stabilizers to be prescribed regularly in psychiatry.
o From 1950s – 1980s, it was standard drug treatment for depression and
o Lithium, a salt compound, can be toxic to kidneys and endocrine system
o Though doctors now prescribe other more effective and safer drugs than
I.e. to treat bipolar disorder, anticonvulsant medications such as
valproate are used
Antianxiety drugs are prescribed to alleviate nervousness and tension and to prevent and
reduce panic attacks.
o Affects activity of gammaaminobutyricacid (GABA), an inhibitory
neurotransmitter that reduces neural activity
o Temporarily alters structure of GABA receptors, allowing more GABA
molecules to inhibit neural activity
o Effects are shortlived; takes effect within minutes of ingestion though
lasts only few hours
Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat disorders such as schizophrenia, and are
sometimes prescribed to people with severe mood disorders.
Symptoms of schizophrenia rel