Chapter 1 – Psychopharmacology in Perspective
- 7/10 leading causes of disability in the US either involves disorders/mental illnesses that drugs
are commonly used to treat or involve alcohol or other drug use disorders.
- Psychopharmacology is the discipline that attempts to systematically study the effects of drugs
on behaviour, cognitive functioning, and emotions.
- Psychoactive/psychotropic drugs are drugs that alter behaviour, cognitive functioning and
emotions. They are chemicals that induce psychological effects by altering the normal
biochemical reactions that take place in the nervous system.
- Derived from Greek “Pharmakos” which meant scapegoat – a pharmakos was a person that was
sacrificed as a remedy. Around 600 BC it began to refer to medicine, drug or poison.
- Three ingredients in drug experience should always be kept in mind. (1) Set – the psychological
makeup and expectations of the person taking a drug (2) Setting – the social and physical
environment in which the drug is taken (3) the individuals unique biochemical makeup.
- Have been using drugs to alter moods for thousands of years. Viking Warriors, Native American
Indians, Guatemalans, Aztecs, etc.gg
- Cannabis, opium poppies, rauwolfia (Himalayas), coca leaf, tea. Numerous other plants
containing caffeine or similar-acting substances have been used in ancient cultures of Mexico,
South America, Africa. Tobacco use in Native Americans.
- Except caffeine, the most common psychoactive substance used around the world today is
alcohol. The earliest records of purposeful alcohol production was by Egyptians.
- Even non-human animals have been observed to seek out substances with mood altering
Predecessors to Modern Pharmacotherapies
- During the 1800s a number of psychoactive drugs were isolated or distilled from plants or
developed from non-plant sources.
o Morphine was isolated from opium, effective to treat insanity
o Cocaine was extracted from the coca leaf, potential depression treatment
o Bromine and Chloral were used as sedatives
o Chloroform and Nitrous Oxide were used to treat insanity
o Cannabis, hemlock, strychnine were used to treat a variety of disorders
- It was also during the 1800s that investigations of the formal relationships between drug
variables and psychological processes (particularly in mental illness) began. Jacques-Joseph
Moreau de Tours was a highly respected physician in France who gave his patients hashish. He
studied a numerous amount of drugs, but experienced a lack of recognition during his time.
Today he is regarded as the first Psychopharmacologist. - The very first book in modern experimental psychopharmacology, as well as the first book
devoted to the drugs and animal behaviour was published in 1862 by A. P. Charvel, a young
medical student. He studied the effect of opium on various animals. He discovered that a drug’s
effects depended on many factors (person’s history, tolerance, dose, and method of
administration). His discoveries were also largely ignored by his contemporaries.
- During the late 1800s and early 1900s, some of the first psychologists began exploring the
relationship between various drugs and psychological variables.
- Freud investigates the effects of cocaine o fatigue, depression, strength, morphine addiction etc
frequently on himself.
- Ivan Pavlov attempted to treat schizophrenics by using some of his conditioning techniques and
including long periods of sleep with bromides. It was doubtful that he was successful because
an accumulation of bromides in the system would induce a psychosis-like state.
- William James wrote about some of his fascinating experiences while under the influence of
Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas).
- The first half of the 20 century was accompanied by the synthesis of clinical use of a wide
variety of new psychoactive substances with potential therapeutic value.
o Barbiturates were used to help sustain interest in sleep therapy
o Amphetamine was used for narcolepsy and mild depressive states
o LSD was discovered as one of the most potent psychoactive substances to humankind
The Psychopharmacological Revolution
- Despite the extensive history of drug use, there was no concerted interest in studying drug and
their influence on cognition, emotions and behaviour until the middle of the 20 century.
- This all changed following the discovery that a drug (chlorpromazine) could dramatically reduce
the core symptoms of schizophrenia. It was able to improve their thought processes and
improve their relationships with others.
- Previously many drugs had been used in trying to treat schizophrenia, and through this, it
provided evidence that certain mental illnesses could be linked to abnormalities in the
biochemistry in the brain, rather than due to purely environmental factors.
- This discovery lead to the formation of a distinct discipline known as psychopharmacology.
Starting with antihistamines in 1937, they were initially used to treat allergies but were later on
suspected to treat other clinical conditions.
- In 1949 an antihistamine named Promethazine was introduced as an adjunct to surgery. Later
on it was used