Biological Therapies: DRUGS AND ECT

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  • Quarter of all mdeication prescribed in Briatin is 'psychiatric drugs' - drugs which modify the working of the brain and affect mood and behaiour. 
  • Antipsychotics control symptons of schizophrenia found in 1950s.
  • Antipsychotic Drugs
  • Conventional antipsychotics combat the positive symptons of schizophrenia. 
  • They block the neurotransmitter dopamine by bunding to dopamine receptors. 
  • The atypical antipsychotic drugs only temporarily occupy dopamine receptors, then rapidly dissociate to allow normal dopamine transmitssion - lower side effects. (tardive dyskinesa)
  • Antidepressant Drugs
  • Depression is thought to be from insufficient ammounts of neurotransmitters; including seretonin.
  • In normal brains, neurotransmitters are constatnly being released to stimulate neighbouring neurons. 
  • To terminate action, neurotransmitters are re-absorbed into nerve endings, or broken down by enzymes. 
  • Antidepressants work by reducing the rate of re-absorption or by blocking the enzyme which breaks dowon the neurotransmitters.  Both mechanisms increase the amount of neurotransmitter available to excite neighbouring cells. 
  • SSRIs work by blocking the transpoter mechanism that re-absorbs seretoning in the presynaptic vell, more serteonin is in turn left in the synapse to prolong its activity.


  • Strengths
  • Effectiveness
  • Research evidece shows chemotherapies work; WHO (world health organisation) reported relapse rates after one year were highest when schizophrenics were treated with placebos. 25% with chlorpromazine alone and 2%-23% when chlorpromazine was combined with family intervention... drugs play an important role. Should be combined with family support to get a greater effect.
  • Ease of Use
  • Chemotherapy requires little effort from the user.
  • Limitations
  • Placebo Effects
  • Psychological effect is a significant factor in the effectiveness of drugs
  • Kirsch reviewed 38 studies of antidepressants and found that patients recieving placebos fared almost as well as those recieving real drugs.
  • Other reviews have found stronger effects for the real drugs... Mulrow


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