• Effects: Antipsychotic drugs, or neuroleptics, reduce sensitivity to irrelevant stimuli by limiting the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Many antipsychotic drugs are most useful for treating positive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and delusions. However, a new class of antipsychotic drugs, called atypical antipsychotic drugs, also help treat the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. They reduce the activity of both dopamine and serotonin. Atypical antipsychotic drugs include clozapine (Clozaril), olanzapine (Zyprexa), and quetiapine (Seroquel). Atypical antipsychotic drugs can sometimes be effective for schizophrenia patients who have not responded to the older antipsychotic drugs.
  • Side effects: Side effects include drowsiness, constipation, dry mouth, tremors, muscle rigidity, and coordination problems. These side effects often make people stop taking the medications, which frequently results in a relapse of schizophrenia. A more serious side effect is tardive dyskinesia, a usually permanent neurological condition characterized by involuntary movements. To avoid tardive dyskinesia, the dosage of antipsychotics has to be carefully monitored. The atypical antipsychotics have fewer side effects than the older antipsychotic drugs and are less likely to cause tardive dyskinesia. In addition, relapse rates are lower if people continue to take the drug. However, the relapse rate is higher with these drugs if people discontinue the drug.

Criticisms of Drug Therapies

Drug therapies are effective for many people with psychological disorders, especially for those who suffer from severe disorders that cannot be treated in other ways. However, drug therapies have been criticized for several reasons:

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