What Does a Psychopharmacologist Do?

Psychopharmacology is a treatment that involves the use of prescribed medications, which reduce or eliminate the symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric conditions. Several different types of medication are effective in the treatment of these conditions. Below we describe some of the most commonly prescribed psychiatric medications. Dr. Brown is fully trained and highly experienced in psychopharmacology.

Antidepressants such as sertraline (Zoloft®), paroxetine (Paxil®), citalopram (Celexa®), escitalopram (Lexapro®), venlafaxine (Effexor®), and duloxetine (Cymbalta®) are used to treat the symptoms of depression; most of these medications also help with anxiety. Antidepressant medication needs to be taken every day and may take 3-4 weeks and sometimes longer before it has its full effect.

Anti-anxiety medications include clonazepam (Klonopin®), alprazolam (Xanax®), lorazepam (Ativan®), and diazepam (Valium®). Unlike antidepressants, these medications work quickly, but may be habit forming if taken frequently for too long. They may need to be taken daily or might only need to be taken for anxiety symptoms on an as-needed basis.

All of these medications likely work by bringing levels of brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters that are affected by the illness, back to normal. Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications need to be prescribed by a psychiatrist or other clinician with medical experience and need to be closely monitored. In particular, psychiatrists are extensively and medically trained in the use of these medications as well as in providing psychotherapy. There are other medical or mental health professionals who can legally prescribe these medications but who did not have training in medical school and/or did not complete a medical and psychiatric residency training program. Although these medications may cause side effects, most improve with time or by switching to a different medication.

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