The history of antipsychotics

21st Jan 2019

Brain and Neuroscience Advances HeaderAntipsychotic drugs have helped millions of people with a variety of mental health issues.

This article by Cunningham Owens and Johnstone (2018) in the BNA’s official journal ‘Brain and Neuroscience Advances’ discusses the odd origins of antipsychotics and how they may change in the future.

The structure of the dye 'methylene blue' (also named phenothiazine) was discovered in 1883, which led to research into their antihistaminic effects in WWII. The antipsychotic effects of a substance derived from this, chlorpromazine were then described in 1951.

Antipsychotics are partially responsible for a large drop in occupied hospital beds since the 1950s, as many were used for people with schizophrenia. Research into their mechanisms and functions has led to a better understanding of schizophrenia and the creation of new types of antipsychotics.

One example of a new type of antipsychotic drug is clozapine, initially created as an antidepressant. These “atypical” antipsychotics target different receptors, causing less movement problems compared to regular antipsychotics. They also work on some patients where typical antipsychotics do not.

Unfortunately, nowadays research into antipsychotics is fairly limited. One potentially interesting new drug could be lithium, which has had a lot of attention in academic research recently. Drugs affecting other pathways may be promising as well, but so far research has not shown many positive results.

To access the full article, click here

Cunningham Owens, D. and Johnstone, E.C., 2018. The development of antipsychotic drugs. Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 2, p.2398212818817498.

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