Director’s Blog: Antipsychotics: Taking the Long View
By Thomas Insel on August 28, 2013
One of the first lessons I received as a psychiatrist-in-training 35 years ago was the value of antipsychotic medications. These medicines have been available for the treatment of psychosis for over half a century, beginning with the prototype first generation drug chlorpromazine (Thorazine) and now extending to some 20 different compounds, including several second-generation medications, often called “atypical antipsychotics.” Symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia are reduced reliably by these drugs. Although these symptoms can be frightening and dangerous for patients, family members, and providers, antipsychotics safely and effectively help people through the crisis of acute psychosis.
However, the long-term management of chronic mental illness is another matter. Recently, results from several studies have suggested that these medications may be less effective for the outcomes that matter most to people with serious mental illness: a full return to well-being and a productive place in society.