Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe mental health condition. Patients usually present with hallucinations, delusions and disorganised speech or thinking. The exact causes behind schizophrenia are somewhat unclear, but it is thought that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. However, it is known that sufferers of schizophrenia all have an increased amount of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, in the brain. Antipsychotic drugs generally work on this pathway, by decreasing this dopamine excess.
Antipsychotics were first discovered in the 1950s, and some are still in use today. These were termed typical antipsychotics. More recent research and developments have provided atypical antipsychotics, such as Risperidone (risperdal).
The first antipsychotic was clorpromazine, and was discovered for use as an anaesthetic in surgery. It emerged as an antipsychotic due to its potent calming effects on patients, which led to its use for the treatment of schizophrenia and psychosis. There are many side effects associated with taking antipsychotics, such as many movement disorders, decreased blood pressure and increased heart rate. Their use is therefore somewhat controversial, as is shown by the drug's regular appearance in the news. It is recognised that they are not a perfect treatment, merely the best treatment that modern science can offer.
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Contrary to belief in the media, people who have schizophrenia are rarely dangerous. Any violent behaviour is usually caused by illegal drugs or alcohol, which is similar to people who don’t suffer from schizophrenia. Schizophrenics are at least 14 times more often the victims of crime than they are perpetrators.