Psychotropic drugs are a variety of medications used to treat a mental illness and to minimize the symptoms of the condition so that a normal everyday life is possible for the patient.

Translating the word psychotropic drugs, it means something like " a medicine for the soul ". Thus, psychotropic drugs claim to heal the soul or repair it again. Because psychotropic drugs only partially claim to a complete cure, sometimes psychotropic drugs are also used to make life with the mental illness for the patient and his environment easier.

In general, most psychotropic drugs are drugs that affect the brain and can therefore have very general effects on the body. This may cause some psychotropic drugs to have quite high side effects.


There are several causes that may require a patient to take psychotropic drugs. One of the most common causes of treating a patient with psychotropic drugs is depression. Overall, every 5th-10th suffers. Once in his life, he experiences depression, which explains why the use of psychotropic drugs in this area is very large. In addition, there are now many different medicines on the market, all of which can be used as psychotropic medications for moderate to severe depression.

In addition to depression, there are other causes that can lead to patients taking psychotropic drugs. On the one hand psychotropic drugs can be used in patients who suffer from a psychosis, that is, a psychic perception that does not correspond to reality. On the other hand psychotropic drugs are used in patients who have strong anxiety and thus are under great strain. These patients often find themselves unable to leave the house because of the fear that something might happen to them on the street. The psychotropic drugs can help patients to become more active in life by gradually reducing their anxiety, leaving them free to leave home and do everyday things such as shopping. Often patients with major anxiety in addition to the psychotropic drugs against anxiety must also take psychotropic drugs that have a sleep-stimulating effect. However, these psychotropic drugs, which in addition produce a sleep-stimulating effect, are also used by patients with major problems of falling asleep or staying asleep. However, these are often psychotropic drugs that can lead to dependence, which is why the use of these psychotropic drugs should usually be limited to a very short period of time.

The psychotropic drugs include drugs that are used to delay a dementia. In this case, the psychotropic drugs can bring no cure and the patient will despite medication sooner or later dementia, yet the drugs can delay the dementia and thus give the patient some valuable years of life. However, it is important to note that these psychotropic drugs do not claim to be cured and that the patient, with or without psychotropic drugs, will become dementia if diagnosed.

Also no claim to a cure have psychotropic drugs that are used to prevent acute psychosis or acute schizoaffektive disorder. These psychotropic drugs are not for the purpose of healing but rather for prophylaxis and should always be used when the patient feels that an acute psychosis could come about again. In addition to the aforementioned psychotropic drugs, there are also drugs that are used in an alcohol or drug withdrawal, as well as drugs for Parkinson's or psychotropic drugs, which should increase performance. Thus, there are very many reasons why psychotropic drugs can be used.

General effect of psychotropic drugs

Overall, there is a very wide range of different psychotropic drugs, which is why it is very difficult to find a general mode of action. It can be said, however, that all psychotropic drugs act in different ways on the brain. Here they ensure that various messenger substances (neurotransmitters) are either increased or decreased in the brain. As a result, various information is passed on in the brain or else it is suppressed, depending on what effect is desired. Other psychotropic drugs block different receptors in the brain, so that no information can be passed on, others stimulate a receptor so that it comes to the flow of information. The effect of the psychotropic drugs is therefore very diverse and very complex, which is why this can also apply to their side effects.

Psychotropic drugs in depression

Psychotropic drugs used in depression are also known as antidepressants. These medications are designed to help lighten the patient's mood and prevent the negative thoughts from getting out of hand. However, antidepressants are not only used for depression but they are also psychotropic drugs that can also be used in panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorders, eating disorders such as anorexia, chronic pain, sleep disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Thus, the field of application of these psychotropic drugs is very broad. Also very variable are the drug classes. Overall, there are many psychotropic drugs that are eligible as an antidepressant. These include the group of tricyclic antidepressants, the selective reuptake inhibitors such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, the monoamine oxidase inhibitors, the serotonin and melatonin agonists as well as various herbal or acute treatment medications. Overall, there are so many different psychotropic drugs that can be used as antidepressants in various disorders and sometimes differ greatly in their mode of action. Due to this different mode of action, however, it is possible to find the right psychotropic drug for almost every patient.

Psychotropic drugs in anxiety

There are various psychotropic drugs that can be used in anxiety disorders and sometimes also in sleep disorders. These so-called tranquilizers ensure that the patient feels less anxious, so they have an anxiolytic effect ( anxiolytic ). Therefore, these psychotropic drugs are sometimes referred to as anxiolytics. In addition to this anxiolytic effect, they also ensure that the patient becomes more relaxed ( sedating ). The most commonly used anxiolytics are the so-called benzodiazepines. These psychotropic drugs are medications that greatly relieve anxiety, promote sleep, and help the patient relax. However, as these psychotropic drugs can sometimes be highly dependent, they are only under strict medical control to take. Nevertheless, the benzodiazepines have the best effect, which is why their use is indispensable in some cases despite possible dependence.

However, there are other psychotropic drugs that can be anxiolytic. These include non-benzodiazepine tranquilizers, some antidepressants and some neuroleptics. In some cases, beta-blockers can be administered, which are not psychotropic drugs but "normal" drugs that are also used in people with heart disease.

Psychotropic drugs in psychoses

Psycho-drugs help to avoid delusions and have a strong calming effect.

There are several different psychotropic drugs that can be used in psychosis. This group of drugs is also called neuroleptics. These neuroleptics or antipsychotics are psychotropic drugs designed to ensure that the patient does not forget what reality is and that he does not lose sight of this reality. In addition to this effect, neuroleptics also have a dampening ( sedative ) effect, which means that the patient becomes calmer and thus better able to differentiate between reality and what is fiction. Through these modes of action, these psychotropic drugs can be used to prevent, for example, hallucinations or to avoid delusions. Therefore, neuroleptics are particularly commonly used psychotropic drugs in patients with schizophrenia or mania.

Due to the sometimes very calming ( sedating ) effect, however, neuroleptics are being used more and more widely. Meanwhile, these psychotropic drugs are also prescribed to patients with dementia, to patients with Tourette's syndrome, to depressive patients, children with ADHD, autistic patients and patients with OCD. Nowadays, atypical neuroleptics are mostly used because they have fewer side effects than the typical or classic neuroleptics that can cause the patient to develop side effects similar to Parkinson's.

In general, these psychotropic drugs are medications that should be given under close medical supervision and close control as the side effects can sometimes be very high. Nevertheless, the psychotropic drugs can help the patient to lead a normal life without hallucinations and delusions. Thus, an accurate risk-benefit analysis is always crucial.

Psychotropic drugs in sleep disorders

There are several different psychotropic drugs that can be used in sleep disorders. These psychotropic drugs are prescribed to patients who either have very large problems with falling asleep or patients who wake up again and again at night and can not sleep at all. These psychotropic drugs are called sleep aids ( hypnotic ). In addition to everyday use, these psychotropic drugs are also sometimes used to let the patient sleep during the operation. In this case, one speaks of narcotics because it is very strong sleeping pills.

The most commonly used psychotropic drugs are the benzodiazepines, whereby there is sometimes a high potential for addiction. In addition, there are the so-called non-benzodiazepine agonists and the barbituric acid derivatives. In addition to these psychotropic drugs, there are also some herbal sleeping pills and anti-allergic drugs such as antihistamines. In general, a patient should always first try to control his sleeping behavior with herbal sleeping aids or a sleep analysis in the sleep laboratory, as otherwise it may lead to habituation to the sleeping pills, which in turn leads to a further deterioration of the patient's sleep behavior.

Psychotropic drugs in dementia

To date, dementia is a poorly researched condition for which there is still no cure. Nevertheless, there are several psychotropic drugs that can slow down the course of dementia and thus help to give the patient some years of life. A psychotropic drug used in dementia is called an anti-dementia drug. A distinction is made between the so-called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and the NMDA antagonists. Both drugs ensure that more of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine remains in the active zone ( synaptic cleft ) of the nerve cells. As a result, acetylcholine increases over a longer period of time, which usually continues to decrease in patients with dementia. This process allows the nerve cells to be excited more frequently and the patient remembers more things longer than without the medication. Yet, these psychotropic drugs can not affect the course of the disease and they can not cure a patient of dementia.

Psychotropic drugs as mood stabilizer

In some patients, it may be helpful if they receive a mood stabilizer (phase prophylactic) to avoid a recurrent mental illness. These psychotropic drugs are medications used primarily in patients with recurrent ( recurrent ) depression or in patients with bipolar disorder. The mood stabilizer helps the patient to consolidate a mood and not always fall into severe depression or strong manic phases. The psychotropic drugs are lithium salts, carbamazepine, valproic acid and lamotrigine.

Psychotropic drugs for stimulation

There are various psychotropic drugs that are used to get the patient back in motion, so to stimulate him. Colloquially, these psychotropic drugs are also referred to as upper because they ensure that the patient is in a good mood and active ( up ) and not bad mood and tired ( down ). These types of psychotropic drugs are often used as drugs to stay awake at work, for example, or to celebrate the nights without any problems. These include amphetamine derivatives, cathinones, entactogens and xanthines and piperazine derivatives. Since these psychotropic drugs sometimes have a very high dependence potential, they should only be taken under strict medical supervision.

Psychotropic drugs in alcohol withdrawal

If a patient suffers from an addiction disorder, such as alcohol addiction, it is often difficult to get the patient away from the drug. To support the withdrawal, there is the psychotropic drug clomethiazole. However, this psychotropic drug is only used if a patient in a hospital is undergoing inpatient withdrawal and the alcohol-related withdrawal symptoms should be avoided. On the other hand, if the alcohol withdrawal takes place in a rehab clinic or on an outpatient basis at home, the patient does not have to take any psychotropic drugs.

Psychotropic drugs in Parkinson's patients

Patients with Parkinson's need psychotropic drugs to minimize their symptoms and live a normal life. However, it is important to know that although the symptoms of the disease can be treated, healing of the disease is not possible. To alleviate the symptoms, however, there are various psychotropic drugs, such as the L-DOPA, dopamine agonists, COMT inhibitors or MAO-B inhibitors. All these psychotropic drugs should lead to the patient having more and above all constant dopamine in his blood and especially in the brain cells. Since Parkinson's is associated with low and above all very fluctuating dopamine levels and this leads to the typical symptoms, the psychotropic drugs, with their stabilizing effect on the dopamine, may cause the patient to have fewer symptoms such as shaking or similar.

frequency distribution

Psychotropic drugs help many with mental health problems.

All in all, it is assumed that every third German in his life has already gone through a mental illness phase in which the use of psychotropic drugs could have made sense. The study refers to the fact that every third in Germany already had an addiction problem, a depression or a psychosis and thus could have been supported by psychotropic drugs. Nevertheless, not all of these patients take psychotropic drugs and some patients manage to overcome their mental disorder without psychotropic drugs.

Discontinued psychotropic drugs

Many patients want to discontinue their psychotropic medications after some time. However, this is not always so easy. Generally, patients should always consult their physician (psychiatrist) if they wish to discontinue their psychotropic drugs. He can then tell the patient if he thinks it makes sense to discontinue psychotropic drugs or if he believes that relapsing can quickly lead to a relapse. For example, a former depressed patient may think he can discontinue psychotropic drugs because he feels much better now. But if he then discontinues the medication, it may be that the patient becomes sadder again and thus relapses into depression. To avoid this, it is important not to stop the psychotropic drugs abruptly, but slowly to sneak them out. This means that the dose of psychotropic drugs will be reduced over a long period of time. If the patient then realizes that he has increasingly sad thoughts at a certain dose and can cope more and more difficult with everyday life, it is important to inform the psychiatrist so that the dose can then be slightly increased again and the patient the psychotropic drugs later has to sell off.

If a patient wants to discontinue the psychotropic drugs, it is so important that he pays attention to his body and the mood and determines whether he can further reduce the dose or if it makes sense to take a smaller dose a little longer and the psychotropic drugs later continue to reduce.

Side effects of psychotropic drugs

In addition to the actual effect of the psychotropic drugs also have side effects, which can sometimes be very strong. Depending on which psychotropic substance is taken, the side effects are different. Often psychotropic drugs have side effects such as weight gain, reduced drive or in some cases a certain lack of feeling. In addition to the typical side effects of psychotropic drugs, there are also such as the benzodiazepines, which additionally make addictive and cause the patient after some time more and more of the substance needed. To understand in detail the main side effects of psychotropic drugs, the psychotropic drugs must be considered individually.

Neuroleptics can cause side effects such as running stiffness or facial muscle. Thus, these psychotropic drugs have side effects that are mainly related to the muscles, but there are also side effects such as nausea or weight gain.

In the case of antidepressants, nausea, weight gain, cardiac arrhythmias, constipation or the loss of sexual desire (loss of libido) may occur . Tranquillizers can cause tiredness, dizziness and confusion, which is why these psychotropic drug side effects should be avoided, especially in elderly patients. Particularly dangerous are the side effects of psychotropic drugs in the class of Phasenprophylaktika, such as lithium. It is essential to draw blood from the patient at regular intervals because poisoning can occur if overdosage occurs.

Psychotropic drugs and alcohol

If you are taking psychotropic drugs, you should stop drinking alcohol.

Psychotropic drugs and alcohol should not be combined if possible. While some patients report that if they've been on psychiatric drugs for years, sometimes they can tolerate a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, it's important never to drink too much alcohol. In general, psychotropic drugs and alcohol are not tolerated.

This has different causes. On the one hand, both the psychotropic drugs and the alcohol in the liver are metabolized and broken down. If a patient combines psychotropic drugs with alcohol, the alcohol degradation process is inhibited and much of the toxic (toxic ) intermediate acetaldehyde is produced. The result is that the patient quickly gets a red head, that he gets sick and that he generally feels very bad. Furthermore, it may happen that the alcohol reduces the effect of the psychotropic drug and in turn increase the side effects increasingly. At the same time, both alcohol and psychotropic drugs may cross the blood-brain barrier, causing both to affect the brain. This can then lead to the patient becoming drowsy or that the actual effect of the psychotropic drugs can no longer be guaranteed.

All in all, therefore, the combination of psychotropic drugs and alcohol should be avoided because both together with bad effects on the liver may have, which can lead to liver failure. Furthermore, the effects on the brain are not foreseeable and it is very difficult to predict whether the effect of psychotropic drugs in alcohol consumption is still guaranteed.

Psychotropic drugs in pregnancy

Psychotropic drugs in pregnancy should be avoided if possible. The reason for this is that most psychotropic drugs have not been tested on pregnant women and therefore it is unclear what effects the use of psychotropic drugs during pregnancy may have on the unborn child. Nevertheless, there may be situations in which it makes sense for pregnant women to receive psychotropic drugs during pregnancy. This is the case, for example, when a patient suffers from severe anxiety or severe depression. If the unborn child is endangered by this fear or depression, there are certain psychotropic drugs that may be used during pregnancy.

Nevertheless, it is very important that a planned pregnancy is always first discussed with the psychiatrist. It is best for the child and for the expectant mother, if the psychotropic drugs are not taken during pregnancy and if the patient before pregnancy slowly cull the psychotropic drugs. This means that the patient continues to reduce the dose of her psychotropic drugs until she finally takes no more psychotropic drugs so there can be no danger from the psychotropic drugs in pregnancy for the unborn child. It is especially important that the patient can handle the reduced dose of psychotropic drugs and not become extremely depressed or anxious again. Furthermore, it is important that psychotropic drugs are taken, which in case of doubt can not exceed the placenta and thus do not endanger the unborn child.

Overview list of psychotropic drugs

A list of psychotropic drugs should be very extensive because there are now extremely many different psychotropic drugs on the market. Nevertheless, with the help of a rough overview of the psychotropic drugs, one can create a list that can be helpful in order to orientate oneself in the jungle of the various medications. In this list of psychotropic drugs are the antidepressants on top as they represent the most commonly prescribed drug among psychotropic drugs. Next in the list of psychotropic drugs is the group of neuroleptics, which are also very commonly prescribed. Also not to be missed in the list of psychotropic drugs, the tranquillizers, hypnotics and anti-dementia. The last two groups of psychotropic drugs are the phase prophylactics as well as the anti-Parkinson's disease.

Are psychotropic drugs available over the counter?

Psychotropic drugs are extremely potent agents that cause not only strong effects but also strong side effects. Furthermore, there are some psychotropic drugs that can lead to dependence, such as the benzodiazepines. This is the reason why hardly any psychotropic drugs can be purchased over the counter. However, there are some medications, such as the natural St. John's Wort, which helps against mild depression and can be purchased partly in pharmacies without a prescription. However, St. John's Wort is not an over-the-counter psychotropic drug but so-called phyto-medications, ie herbal medicines.

Also, the drug ARDEYDORM ® is similar to psychotropic drugs as it can also be used for depression. This is as "psychotropic drugs" over the counter in pharmacies buyable. Also, some memory-enhancing psychotropic drugs are available over-the-counter in pharmacies. These include Tebonin ®, which contains the memory-enhancing Ginkgo special extract EGb 761. However, its positive effect is critically discussed and is not considered clear.

In general, however, there are hardly any psychotropic drugs to buy without a prescription because the side effects are too high and the patients regularly have to be checked by a doctor for their liver function and cardiac output to make sure that the patient does not get sicker from the psychotropic drugs than he did before was.

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