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    Antipsychotic drugs are medication used primarily to treat psychotic disorders. The symptoms they are typically designed to treat include delusions, hallucinations or disordered thought.

    Antipsychotics are used to treat psychoses symptoms that arise in illnesses such a schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. There are other non-psychotic uses such as stabilizing moods, reducing anxiety and reducing tics for those who suffer from Tourette’s syndrome.² These medications are typically prescribed in conjunction with other treatment options such as psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy and support to manage symptoms.

    The first generation of antipsychotic medicine, known as typical antipsychotics, only treated positive symptoms of psychotic disorders. The first ‘wonder drug’ of this generation to treat schizophrenia was chlorpromazine.¹ These drugs affect the dopamine system by reducing delusional and hallucinatory symptoms. Many negative side effects accompany this generation of drugs, including shaking, disrupted motor behaviour and tar dive dyskinesia, the involuntary and random movements of the facial, arm or leg muscles.¹

    A new class of antipsychotics, atypical antipsychotics, have been developed more recently to treat both positive and negative symptoms by affecting both the dopamine and serotonin receptors. Clozapine is the most common atypical psychotic and works without the motor-related side effects. 

    The classes of drugs in the first generation of antipsychotic drugs (typical) include:²

    • Butyrophenones
    • Diphenylbutylpiperidine
    • Phenothiazines
    • Thioxanthenes

    The drugs in the second generation of antipsychotic drugs (atypical) include:²

    • Amisulpride
    • Amoxapine
    • Aripiprazole
    • Clozapine
    • Iloperidone

    Chlorpromazine's 2D molecular structure



    1. Carlson, N., Buskist, W., Heth, C. and Schmaltz, R. (2009). Psychology : The Science of Behaviour. Pearson Education Canada.

    2. Camh.ca, (2014). CAMH: Antipsychotic Medication. [online] Available at: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/antipsychotic_medication/Pages/antipsychotic_medication.aspx [Accessed 11 Aug. 2014].

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    Drugs used to treat psychotic symptom

    Discuss the issue of patient compliance with antipsychotic drug regimens. Describe the problems caused by noncompliance and how this situation has been addressed in treatment settings.