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A Glossary Of Psychiatric Medication Terms

Dr. Trudy Hardman   |  


To help you understand commonly used names of prescribed medication and their usage, Dr. Trudy Hartman has put together a glossary of terms used within the psychiatric community.

Antidepressant Medication.
Although anti-depressant medications were developed to treat depression, with use, it became apparent that they also treated anxiety disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. While there are several classes of anti-depressants, SSRIs are the first line treatment for both depression and anxiety.

Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitor (SSRI).
These are the most commonly prescribed anti-depressants and are much safer to use than the previous generation of anti-depressants. They include Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Lexapro.

Serotonin Norepinephrine Re-Uptake Inhibitor (SNRI).
These were developed to affect both serotonin and norepinephrine receptors, in the hope that they would be more effective than the SSRIs. They may or may not be dependant on the individual. They include Effexor, Cymbalta, Pristiq, and Fetzima. There are a few that fit into neither of these classes as their mechanism of action is varied. They are Wellbutrin, Remeron, Trintellix, and Viibrid.

Anti-Anxiety Medication.
Generally, this term refers to the benzodiazepine class of medications. They are potentially addictive, so I prescribe the anti-depressants as a first line treatment for anxiety. They include Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, and Xanax, which is the most addictive, so I rarely prescribe it. There is also one anti-anxiety medication that is not a benzodiazepine, that is, BuSbar.

Sedative-Hypnotic Medication.
These are commonly known as “sleeping pills.” The common older ones are Halcion and Restoril, while the next generation of medication is Sonata, Ambien, and Lunesta.  There are two non-benzodiazepines - Belsomra and Rozerem. And of course, many people try over-the-counter antihistamines. The most common is Benadryl, which is available in many brands.

Anti-Psychotic Medication.
These medications are used to treat psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. The first generation of antipsychotics are rarely used because of their many side effects. They include Stelazine, Haldol, Thorazine, etc. The second generation of antipsychotics have fewer side effects. They include Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify, Geodon, Fanapt, Latuda, Invega, Rexulti, and Clozaril. Many of these antipsychotics also used as mood stabilizers in bipolar disorder.

Mood Stabilizers.
These are generally used to treat Bipolar Disorder, particularly manic episodes. The oldest one is Lithium, which is a simple element (found on the periodic chart.) The remaining ones are all originally anti-epileptic medications that were found to have mood stabilizing properties. They include Depakote, Tegretol, Trileptal, and Lamictal.

Medications for ADHD.
The first line of treatment for ADHD are stimulant medications. They include Ritalin (methylphenidate), Concerta (a long-acting Ritalin), Focalin ( similar to Ritalin), Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine), Dexedrine, and Vyvanse (a long-acting Dexedrine). Daytrana (Ritalin) is taken in a daily patch.

There are numerous new stimulants to treat ADHD; they are all in variant forms of Ritalin and Dexedrine. They include Azendys, Aptensio, Contempla, Dyanavel, Evekeo, Mydayis, Procentra, Quillivant (in liquid or chewable form), and Zenzedi. The most recent addition to ADHD meds, just released, is Journay PM, a Ritalin that can be given at night, with delayed release, so that it is working first thing in the morning and your morning routine goes more smoothly.

There are also non-stimulant medications to treat ADHD, such as Strattera, Tenex, Intuniv, Catapres, and Kapvay.

If you’re looking for an experienced psychiatrist in Palo Alto, CA, contact Dr. Trudy Hartman. I provide diagnostic evaluations and medication treatment to children, adolescents, and adults struggling with emotional and mental health issues. I offer my psychiatric services across Palo Alto, Menlo Park, San Jose, and the surrounding areas.

To learn more about how I can help you, please click here. If you have any questions about psychiatric medication, please get in touch with me here.