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any of a group of drugs that act mainly on the mind. Unlike other agents that affect the mental processes, psychotropic agents can regulate impaired mental activity and are therefore used in the treatment of mental disorders. They act not only on the higher centers of the central nervous system (psychotropic action) but also on other centers of the central nervous system (neurotropic action) and on somatic functions (somatotropic action); for this reason they are used in neurology, internal medicine, surgery, and obstetrics. The development of psychotropic agents in the 1950’s gave rise to a new branch of psychiatry called clinical psychopharmacology.
Most modern classifications of psychotropic agents are based on the system proposed in 1957 by the French psychiatrist J. Delay. Delay’s system distinguished psycholeptic, psychoanaleptic, and psychodysleptic agents. Psycholeptic agents (psychoinhibitors), which possess sedative action, are divided into neuroleptics, which are effective in psychoses, and tranquilizers, which are used in the treatment of neuroses, reactive conditions, and psychopathies. Psychoanaleptic agents (stimulants, energizers, activators) are divided into antidepressant and psychotonic agents. Psychodysleptic compounds (psychotomimetics) induce experimental psychoses and are not used in clinical practice. Each group of drugs differs from the others in chemical structure or probable mechanism of action. Among the antidepressants, for example, are agents that relieve morbid depression because they contain tricyclic compounds, such as imipramine and amitryptyline. Antidepressants also include monamine oxidase inhibitors, whose antidepressant action is related to their effect on neurohormone metabolism.
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G. IA. AVRUTSKII