Psychopharmacology: Introduction

Psychopharmacology is the study of the effects of drugs on affect, cognition, and behavior. It is a hybrid discipline, requiring background in neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, pharmacology, and psychology. There are several related disciplines which emphasize somewhat different subject matter.

NO pathway
Figure 1: NO pathway. Copyright 1996 by DOJINDO Laboratories

Medications develop has revolutionized the treatment of many neurological and psychological disorders. For example, the introduction of L-DOPA therapy has dramatically increased the quality of life for thousands of Parkinson’s disease patients. The advent of anxiolytics help people to cope with perceived stress and increases the window of opportunity for effective cognitive-behavioral therapy. And perhaps most dramatically, the introduction of effective antipsychotic medications has drastically reduced the number of psychiatric patients residing in mental institutions (see Figure 2).

Psychiatric Hospitalization
Figure 2: Number of patients in nonfederal psychiatric hospitals in the United States.
From Palfai and Jankiewicz (1997).