The Science of Antipsychotics: Mechanistic Insight

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14 Scopus citations


With the introduction of conventional antipsychotics in the 1950s, clinicians began to expect effective treatment of positive symptoms of schizophrenia. However, these drugs do not resolve negative and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia and are also associated with serious side effects, including extrapyramidal side effects (EPS) and tardive dyskinesia. In 1989, clozapine was introduced and labeled the first new antipsychotic owing to its improved efficacy and side-effect profile. Clozapine proved effective in alleviating many of the positive, negative, and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia, without causing inevitable EPS or tardive dyskinesia. Over the past decade, a number of different new antipsychotics have been developed. These drugs have an affinity for multiple dopamine-receptor subtypes as well as serotonin, norepinephrine, and glutamate receptors, allowing for better treatment outcomes. The antagonism of the 5-HT2A receptor may be responsible for improvement in negative symptoms and decrease in EPS. In addition to providing enhanced efficacy, the affinity of the new drugs for multiple receptors introduces new side effects not seen with the conventional agents, including weight gain. Each new antipsychotic has a unique receptor-binding profile that corresponds to its pharmacologic and side-effect profile. Understanding the differences in mechanisms of action of new antipsychotics will allow physicians to better choose treatment that meets the needs of each individual patient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-9
Number of pages5
JournalCNS spectrums
Issue number11 SUPPL. 2
StatePublished - Nov 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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