There has been a wave of new drugs, both antipsychotics (atypicals) and antidepressants (SSRIs, etc.), as well as others. The manufacturers have claimed that these new drugs are as effective as older drugs, but have fewer side-effects. They do seem to have a more favourable side-effect profile in some cases, although their adverse effects are now beginning to emerge: for example, weight gain and diabetes with olanzepine. In medicine, as in life, one does not get anything for nothing, however, and clinical experience is that the newer drugs are less powerful. Although they may be satisfactory for milder cases, they may not be as effective in more severe cases in more disadvantaged areas.
This chapter describes the main groups of psychotropic drugs, with reference to some commonly used examples. The British National Formulary (BNF) is the standard daily reference, but it must be remembered that it is primarily written for GPs; the Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines offers more detailed guidance, specifically for mental health.
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