What is Psychotropic Medication?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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Psychotropic medication is prescribed for mental disorders to alter behavior and change mood. Psycho is Greek for the mind, while trop indicates a turning or changing. Psychotropic medication is often used with other treatments such as counseling to help manage the symptoms of mental disorders.

It's important to note that psychotropic medications don't cure mental disorders, but rather treat their symptoms by causing chemical changes in the brain. For example, anti-depressants such as Prozac®, Zoloft® and Paxil® are psychotropics prescribed to alter the brain's mood and emotion centers. These types of anti-depressants have been shown to reduce feelings and behaviors that typically accompany depression. At the same time, prescribing psychotropic medications such as these is controversial because they have also been associated with causing aggressive behavior or suicidal thoughts.

Any psychotropic medication should be carefully prescribed by a qualified medical professional who monitors the effects on his or her patients. Since these medications react with brain chemistry to alter behaviors, thoughts and emotions, the results can differ greatly from one individual to another. Like many other drugs, psychotropic medications may also cause side effects, such as decreased sexual drive, aggression, depression, rashes, weight gain and blurred vision.


In addition to anti-depressants, psychotropic medication includes anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic drugs. Anti-anxiety psychotropics are also commonly called tranquilizers. Tranquilizing psychotropics such as Valium® slow the central nervous system and are prescribed as muscle relaxers and sleeping pills. While these medications treat anxiety symptoms such as panic attacks, they don't address the underlying cause of anxious behavior; moreover, tranquilizers and other prescription drugs can be highly addictive. Anti-anxiety psychotropic medications may be prescribed as a part of psychological therapy that often includes counseling.

An anti-psychotic drug is usually prescribed to treat symptoms of conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. While no psychotropic medication can cure a mental disorder, oftentimes the most troubling symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions can be controlled with regular doses. Doctors prescribing the psychotropic medications must carefully monitor their patients' reaction to the drug as well as consider any side effects.

Psychotropic medication may be prescribed in tablets or liquid form. Tablets are much more commonly used for psychotropics than liquids. More than one type of psychotropic drug may be prescribed to a patient at one time, but this is rare and is best done by a psychiatrist with extensive training.


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