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Historical overview::Psychopharmacology

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Historical overview

Early psychopharmacology

The common muscimol-bearing mushroom Amanita muscaria, also known as the "Fly Agaric"

Not often mentioned or included in the field of psychopharmacology today, are psychoactive substances not identified as useful in modern mental health settings or references. These substances are naturally occurring, but nonetheless psychoactive, and are compounds identified through the work of ethnobotanists and ethnomycologists (and others who study the native use of naturally occurring psychoactive drugs). However, although these substances have been used throughout history by various cultures, and have a profound effect on mentality and brain function, they have not always attained the degree of scrutinous evaluation that lab-made compounds have. Nevertheless, some, such as psilocybin and mescaline, have provided a basis of study for the compounds that are used and examined in the field today. Hunter-gatherer societies tended to favor psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants, and today their use can still be observed in many surviving tribal cultures. The exact drug used depends on what the particular ecosystem a given tribe lives in can support, and are typically found growing wild. Such drugs include various psychedelic mushrooms containing psilocybin, muscimol, and muscarine (to name a few), and cacti containing mescaline and other chemicals, along with myriad other psychoactive-chemical-containing plants. These societies generally attach spiritual significance to such drug use, and often incorporate it into their religious practices. With the dawn of the Neolithic and the proliferation of agriculture, new psychoactives came into use as a natural by-product of farming. Among them were opium, cannabis, and alcohol derived from the fermentation of cereals and fruits. Most societies began developing herblores, lists of herbs which were good for treating various physical and mental ailments. For example, St. John's Wort was traditionally prescribed in parts of Europe for depression (in addition to use as a general-purpose tea), and Chinese medicine developed elaborate lists of herbs and preparations. These and various other substances that have an effect on the brain are still used as remedies in many cultures.<ref>Goodman, J. Lovejoy, P.E., & Sherratt, A. (Eds.). (1996). Consuming Habits: Global and Historical Perspectives on How Cultures Define Drugs. London & New York: Routledge.</ref>

Modern psychopharmacology

The dawn of contemporary psychopharmacology marked the beginning of the use of psychiatric drugs to treat psychological illnesses. It brought with it the use of opiates and barbiturates for the management of acute behavioral issues in patients. In the early stages, psychopharmacology was primarily used for sedation. Then with the 1950s came the establishment of chlorpromazine for psychoses, lithium carbonate for mania, and then in rapid succession, the development of tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, benzodiazepines, among other antipsychotics and antidepressants. A defining feature of this era includes an evolution of research methods, with the establishment of placebo-controlled, double blind studies, and the development of methods for analyzing blood levels with respect to clinical outcome and increased sophistication in clinical trials. The early 1960s revealed a revolutionary model by Julius Axelrod describing nerve signals and synaptic transmission, which was followed by a drastic increase of biochemical brain research into the effects of psychotropic agents on brain chemistry.<ref>Arana, G.W. & Rames, L. (1995). Chapter Three: Psychopharmacology. In K. Mogul & L. Dickstein (Eds.), Career planning for psychiatrists (pp. 25-34). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc. ISBN 978-0-88048-197-7.</ref> After the 1960s, the field of psychiatry shifted to incorporate the indications for and efficacy of pharmacological treatments, and began to focus on the use and toxicities of these medications.<ref>Coryell, W. (1987). Shifts in attitudes among psychiatric residents: serial measures over 10 years. American Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 913-917.</ref><ref>Garfinkel, P., Cameron, P., & Kingstone, E. (1979). Psychopharmacology education in psychiatry. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 24, 644-651.</ref> The 1970s and 1980s were further marked by a better understanding of the synaptic aspects of the action mechanisms of drugs. However, the model has its critics, too – notably Joanna Moncrieff and the Critical Psychiatry Network.


Psychopharmacology sections
Intro  Historical overview  Chemical signaling  Psychopharmacological substances  Psychopharmacological research  See also  References  Further reading  External links  

Historical overview
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