The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology have made a huge text book freely available online that covers the cutting edge of pretty much everything we know about how drugs affect the mind and brain.
Psychopharmacology is the science of how drugs affect the mind. You can do this without a huge understanding of brain function. You can just see how different drugs affect people’s mental state.
This was pretty much how many of the early drug treatments in psychiatry were discovered.
For example, the first antipsychotic, chlorpromazine, was developed in the 1950s as an antiemetic, a drug to prevent vomiting.
However, the French doctor Henri Laborit noticed that it induced a sort of ‘indifference’ to the world, and wondered whether it might help calm patients with mental illness who were agitated.
It was discovered that this drug was the first effective treatment for psychosis, and for several decades, psychopharmacology research simply tested various derivatives without a good understanding of how they were affecting the brain.
Neuropsychopharmacology adds neuroscience into the mix, and attempts to explain how drugs have their effect by studying how they interact with the biology of the brain.
It’s an incredibly important science, not only for the purpose of developing new treatments, but also for understanding how any drug (be it aspirin, cocaine or caffeine) has its effect.
The online text book, entitled Neuropsychopharmacology: The Fifth Generation reviews a huge, and I mean HUGE, amount of research into this area.
It’s an academic text, so is very in-depth, but is a fantastic resource to have freely available on the net.
Link to Neuropsychopharmacology: The Fifth Generation.