Quick Reference to Medications Used in Mental Health
This quick reference includes the 80 or so products classified by the NIMH as mental health medications, as well as an additional 20 or so entries covering hypnotics, plus analgesics and muscle relaxants. Information comes directly from the FDA repository of package inserts.
Antidepressants are used to treat depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders. Antidepressants may also play a role in the treatment of ADHD and chronic pain.
ADHD is commonly treated with stimulants requiring close supervision by a doctor and/or parents. One non-stimulant ADHD medication, Strattera, has been shown to be associated with suicidal thoughts in children and teenagers with ADHD.
Anti-anxiety medications, most of which are benzodiazepines, can start working quickly in the treatment of anxiety disorders such as social phobia, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Buspirone (Buspar), which is not a benzodiazepine, may take longer to begin working.
Traditional antipsychotics and the newer atypical antipsychotics are used in the treatment of schizophrenia and schizophrenia-related disorders and may also be used in the treatment of bipolar disorder, major depression, and autistic spectrum disorders.
The combination of antidepressant plus antipsychotic may improve clinical response rates in the treatment of depressive episodes associated with bipolar disorder as well as treatment resistant depression. Some studies suggest benefit also for the treatment of negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
Sedative-hypnotic medicines are used in the treatment of sleeping problems. Their potential for addiction is lower than that for benzodiazepine sedatives which may also be used to help people sleep. However, possible risks associated with taking hypnotics include allergic reactions and dangerous sleep-related behaviors such as sleep-driving.
In mental health contexts, anticonvulsants (which were originally developed to treat seizures) and mood stabilizers are both sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder. Some anticonvulsants are also used to treat pain.
Analgesics and muscle relaxants are used in the treatment of a wide range of chronic pain conditions which have a high rate of comorbidity with common mental health complaints, including depression and anxiety.