Psychopharmaceuticals are medications which have a therapeutic effect on the central nervous system and in this way have a beneficial effect on pathological changes in the experience and behavior of mental disorders.
Depending on the mode of action and the area of application, psychopharmaceuticals are divided into several different groups:
- Antidepressants (drugs for the treatment of depression)
- Phase prophylactics (medications for mood stabilization and relapse prevention during depression and mania)
- Neuroleptics (drugs used to treat various psychotic conditions with disorders of thought and perception)
- Tranquilizers (anxious drugs),
- Hypnotics (sleeping pills)
- Anti-dementia drugs or nootropics (drugs for the treatment of dementia)
- Psychostimulants (medications currently used mainly for the treatment of certain types of attention disorders)
Contrary to common beliefs, most psychopharmaceuticals are neither addictive nor able to alter the personality of the patient treated. Rather, they help to alleviate symptoms of the disease, they lessen the mood and lessen the anxiety, and in many patients they provide a means to improved vitality and quality of life.
Especially in the case of severe depression the therapeutic use of antidepressants is indispensable. In addition, psychopharmacotherapy makes it possible to stabilize the psychological condition necessary for the application of further therapeutic procedures, in particular the different forms of psychotherapy.
Like all other effective drugs, psychopharmaceuticals are not without side effects. In general, however, the newer formulations are well tolerated. Besides, any side effects are easily outweighed by the positive treatment effects. in our clinical practice, we understand the need for personalized antidepressant therapy due to the fact that some depressive patients respond to a particular drug very well, while others do not. For more information, please see Personalized therapy.
If a medication is not tolerated or effective enough, a change is both sensible and necessary. Sometimes, several treatment strategies must be tried out before the most effective and best-tolerated medication for the individual is found.
Even after the improvement of mental well-being, the patient should continue to take the medication for a period of time in order to prevent a recurrence. The length of time the drug is required depends upon the severity of the illness and the number of previous illnesses, but also on the life situation of the patient. Psychopharmaceuticals should never be changed in dose or formulation or discontinued without prior consultation with the treating physician. This is because symptoms of the disease may reoccur and need monitoring. If the patient has decided with the physician to discontinue the medication, then usually the medication needs to be tapered off slowly. This will avoid any unsettling effects that can occur when the medication is stopped abruptly.