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Psychotropic drugs: drugs that act on the brain

Psychotropic drugs: drugs that act on the brain

October 1, 2022

The psychotropic drugs They are one of the most influential tools in psychology and psychiatry, both in its intervention and in research.

However, the fact that its commercialization and popularity have spread over a large part of the planet does not prevent there being a certain confusion about what a psychotropic drug is really.

What exactly are the psychotropic drugs?

Psychotropic drugs are chemical substances that influence the mental processes acting on the nervous system.

However, we must bear in mind that there are many substances that directly or indirectly affect the networks of neurons in our body, and that is why The concept of psychoactive drug has a lot to do with the type of effects the substance has, its intensity and the legal regulations that determine how and when their consumption should be.

Types of psychotropic drugs

Within the wide variety of psychotropic drugs that have been developed there is also a very wide range of functions . And is that if the nervous system is able to perform all kinds of processes, such as allowing decision-making or regulation of emotional states, the substances that influence these groups of neurons can also produce very varied effects depending on the type of psychotropic drug concerned.

Although each class of substance has very specific effects, it does a classification of the types of psychotropic drugs can be established . These are the following:

Anxiolytics and sedatives

Anxiolytics are a class of psychotropic drugs that reduce the signs of anxiety and agitation that are associated with it without producing numbness. Among the most important anxiolytics are benzodiazepines.

Sedatives, on the other hand, do lower the level of consciousness. Both types of psychotropic drugs can be used as tranquilizers.

Mood stabilizers

This class of psychotropic drugs is used especially in mood disorders and the like, being the cases of bipolar disorder the most typical.


Antipsychotics, also called neuroleptics, are a type of psychotropic drugs whose effects are usually related to the mitigation of the effects of psychosis and schizophrenia.


Antidepressants are psychotropic drugs used especially in the treatment of major depressive disorders, and disorders related to the difficulty in controlling certain impulses.

Among the types of antidepressants we find some such as MAOIs, SSRIs, tricyclic antidepressants.

How do psychopharmaceuticals work?

In general, the basic function of psychotropic drugs is to make certain neurons behave in a different way than they were acting. This is achieved by directly or indirectly influencing the way in which these nerve cells recapture certain types of substances called neurotransmitters.

Thus, for example, a psychotropic drug can cause a certain class of neurons to stop capturing such a high amount of dopamine, which generates a chain reaction that makes the symptoms of a disorder improve.

Psychopharmaceuticals and their side effects

Psychotropic drugs are, in the end, a type of drug whose target is the Central Nervous System. However, make your goal "ideal" are very specific areas of the brain does not mean that these substances only have effects there .

Like all medicines, psychotropic drugs are not intelligent organisms, without sets of molecules that "fit" in some parts of the body and not in others. That means that they act on where they are supposed to act, but also on many other parts of the body. That is to say, that psychotropic drugs have side effects, many of which can become very negative.

The psychopharmaceutical in the fight against mental illness

Traditionally, psychotropic drugs have been the response of medicine to cases of mental illness. That means in part that its use has not been thought to apply to healthy people, and also means that its use has been a way to combat symptoms of disorders that were understood to have a cause in the individual.

However, there is currently a very intense debate about the way in which we must understand mental disorders and, therefore, the way in which they should be treated by health specialists. This debate affects the use of psychopharmaceuticals , that in some cases can go from being the core of the treatment to become a complement in a type of approach to the problem that serves to intervene more in the context in which the person lives and not so much in the person as something isolated.

About this topic, you may be interested in this article: "The differences between syndrome, disorder and disease"

Overview of psychoactive drugs | Processing the Environment | MCAT | Khan Academy (October 2022).

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