Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat the symptoms of psychotic disorders. These are severe, often chronic psychiatric conditions characterized by hallucinations and delusions. Schizophrenia is the most commonly known psychotic disorder.
Psychotic disorders cause thinking difficulties, create unstable mood, and impact ability to interact with others and to perform activities of daily living. Antipsychotic drugs may reduce or eliminate the symptoms of psychosis that occur in several disorders such as schizophrenia, acute psychosis, and alcoholism.
Schizophrenia is characterized by positive symptoms, which include thought disorder, delusions, and hallucinations, and negative symptoms such as slowed thoughts, loss of emotional expression, slowed speech, decreased attention span, lack of motivation, and diminished social interest.
Individuals with schizophrenia have increased dopamine circulating in a region of the central nervous system called the mesolimbic pathway, which is associated with the experience of pleasure.
There are two classes of antipsychotic drugs: typical, or first generation; and atypical, or second generation. Both classes work by blocking excessive production of dopamine in the brain. First generation drugs act by blocking the D2 dopamine receptor. They generally decrease positive symptoms but may increase negative ones.
The atypical antipsychotics block the D2 receptor, as well as a specific serotonin receptor, called 5HT2A. The newer antipsychotics can affect both positive and negative symptoms. Examples or newer antipsychotic drugs are clozapine, quetiapine, risperidone, and aripiprazole.
See also Schizophrenia .
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National Institute of Mental Health, Science Writing, Press, and Dissemination Branch, 6001 Executive Blvd., Rm. 6200, MSC 9663, Bethesda, MD, 20892-9663, (301) 443-4513, (866) 615-6464, Fax: (301) 443-4279, nimhinfo @nih.gov, http://www.nimh.nih.gov .