Brain And Nervous System - part 2

Antidepressant medicaments

Sporadic feelings of melancholy or discouragement are quite normal and they generally fade away fast. However, further acute cases of depression, which may be accompanied by lack of concern, despair, poor appetite, lethargy and lack of libido or sexual urge, may require medical attention.

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This kind of severe depression may occur when an individual is suffering from an ailment and when the person is unable to cope with the death of a beloved one. Occasionally, it may also arise without any obvious or perceptible cause.

Physicians usually prescribe three kinds of medications to treat depression - monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), tricyclics and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In addition, they sometimes prescribe medications like maprotiline, whose actions are comparable to the actions of the tricyclics.

The precise manner in which antidepressant drugs work or how they benefit the sufferer is yet to be ascertained. Nevertheless, scientific studies have suggested that these medications possess the aptitude to act on various different categories of neurons by means of augmenting or diminishing the electrical activity of these neurons.

The therapeutic effect of antidepressants is said to be a result of their multifaceted actions on the neurons as well as their receptors.

Normally, the desired effects of using antidepressant medications are evident after about 10 to 14 days. However, it may often take as many as six to eight weeks of an individual to experience the full beneficial effects of antidepressants.

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A number of tricyclics possess the aptitude to produce drowsiness as well as an assortment of anti-cholinergic actions, such as dry mouth, problems in urinating and blurred visions, even within a day of using these drugs.

Tricyclics as well as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may prove to be dangerous when they are taken in excessive dosage. An overdose of tricyclics may cause seizures, result in coma and even produce abnormal heart rhythms, which may prove to be fatal.

Similarly, taking an overdose of MAOIs may lead to seizures and even cause untimely death. Physicians exercise great caution while prescribing these medications, especially for people with epilepsy and problems related to the heart.

It is important to note that MAOIs generally have several adverse effects, as they work to neutralize certain enzyme produced by our body, especially those that break down specific chemicals like tyramine present in a number of foods.

Generally, monoamine oxidase inhibitors are used together with particular medicines or foods having rich tyramine content, such as meat, yeast extract, cheese and red wine. You should know that these medications may cause the blood pressure to rise significantly even two weeks after you have discontinued the medications.

Moclobemide, a more recent form of MAOIs, is more tolerable and possibly does not lead to many adverse effects, provided it is taken along with food. Moreover, people using this medication also generally do not need to follow diet restrictions, which is necessary for people taking tricyclics and MAOIs.

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Antipsychotic medicaments

When we use the word "psychosis" we usually talk about mental ailments that stop the sufferer from acting sensibly, thinking clearly and distinguishing facts. Some such mental disorders include manic depression, schizophrenia and paranoia.

While the exact reasons for these mental disorders are yet to be ascertained, scientists believe that heredity, stress, as well as brain injury and others may possibly be some of the factors involved with these conditions.

Some people may also suffer from temporary psychosis as a result of using mind-altering medications in excessive doses or too frequently or due to discontinuing alcoholic beverages.

Generally, physicians use various different medications to cure psychotic disorders and the effects as well as actions of most of these drugs are similar. However, there is an exception - lithium, an antipsychotic drug that is particularly effective for treating manic depression.

It is believed that an augmented transmission of signals between the neurons (brain cells) owing to over active dopamine (a chemical present in the brain) is responsible for a number of types of mental disorders.

When this occurs, it hinders the usual thought process of the sufferers and make them behave abnormally. Dopamine binds to the receptors present on the neurons. When we use antipsychotic medications, it reduces the communication between the nerve cells by means of attaching to these receptors. As a result, the brain cells become less responsive to dopamine.

Antipsychotic medications work to change the abnormal behaviour of the sufferers, thereby enabling them to live in the society and not in mental institutions, where people suffering from mental disorders were detained, often in inhuman conditions, till the 1950s.

As antipsychotic medications restrain dopamine's actions, these medications may also upset the balance of this brain chemical with acetylcholine, another chemical present in the brain. In case this happens, the sufferer may experience symptoms akin to those of Parkinson's disease, including trembling hands and an inexpressive face.

In such conditions, it is necessary to change the medications or prescribe an additional medicine to the sufferer with a view to neutralize the unwanted effects caused by the antipsychotic drug.

In addition, antipsychotic drugs may also hinder the action of norepinephrine, a different neurotransmitter. Blocking the action of this neurotransmitter usually brings down the blood pressure, particularly when the sufferer stands up. This may also result in light-headedness and also put off ejaculation.

The medications prescribed to treat psychotic disorders should be continued even when the sufferer no longer experiences the symptoms associated with the condition, because these symptoms have only been suppressed by using the antipsychotic drugs in prescribed dosages and discontinuing them may result in the recurrence of the problems.

Antipsychotic medications may possibly cause temporary as well as permanent side effects. Hence, the physicians always prescribe the minimum dosage necessary for the sufferer. Initially, your physician will prescribe a very low dose and increase it gradually till he/ she finds the optimum dosage for you, which controls the symptoms effectively.

The drugs are not stopped all of a sudden, as it may prove to be detrimental for your health. Instead, your physician will gradually reduce the dose before discontinuing the medication.

Treatment with antipsychotic drugs may also have very serious risks or side effects, which may continue for a prolonged period. The most serious among them is a disorder called tardive dyskinesia, which the sufferer may possibly develop even one to five years after discontinuing the medication.

People suffering from this condition may experience frequent tweaking movement of the face, mouth, tongue and occasionally even jerking of the hands and feet. According to some physicians, it is possible to reduce the harshness of tardive dyskinesia by intermittent withdrawal of the antipsychotic drug for many months. However, the effectiveness of this type of treatment is yet to be corroborated scientifically.

Anticonvulsant medicaments

In general, electrical signals or nerve impulses transmitted by the neurons in the brain are synchronized finely to cause the movements of our limbs. However, at times, these signals may turn out to be convulsive and confused, triggering uncontrollable muscle activity as well as cerebral alterations, which are the main features of epilepsy (also known as convulsion or fit).

Seizures are most commonly attributed to the disorder called epilepsy. On the other hand, external stimuli, for instance flash lights, may also produce seizures.

In addition, seizures may also be caused by brain injury or disease, toxic actions of specific medicines or even high body temperatures, especially in children. Anticonvulsant drugs are prescribed to diminish the risks of suffering a seizure as well as to stop a seizure that is already underway.

Brain cells or neurons are responsible for our body movements. They initiate body movements by means of a type of electrical activity that reaches the muscles via the nerves. When a seizure occurs, there is too much electrical activity in a particular segment of the brain and it spreads to other brain segments resulting in unrestrained brain cell stimulation.

Majority of the anticonvulsant drugs slow down the actions of the brain cells, thereby diminish the electrical activity. In this way, these medications put off an extreme build-up that is responsible for the occurrence of seizures or fits.

In an ideal condition, an anticonvulsant medication should only work to lessen or put off seizures. However, it is unfortunate that no drug available currently puts off seizures possibly without having an effect on the functioning of the brain.

The adverse effects of these medications on the brain often result in stupor, an absence of coordination, poor memory and helplessness of the user to concentrate.

Hence, it is very important to find and settle on a dosage of anticonvulsant medication that is enough to prevent the occurrence of seizures and, at the same time, not cause any adverse side effects. As a standard dosage for anticonvulsant medications does not exist, it is vital to prepare a customized dose for the patient.

Usually, a physician begins treatment with a low dosage of the selected anticonvulsant medication and increases it gradually till there is a perfect balance between controlling seizures effectively and the side effects caused by the medication.

However, it has been found that several side effects of anticonvulsants fade within the initial few weeks of the therapy. In all cases, physicians recommend regular blood tests to keep an eye on the levels of these medications in the patient's body.

However, it may usually take several months for a physician to decide on the appropriate dosage of anticonvulsants for a particular patient. In a number of cases, it may also be essential to prescribe additional medications to control seizures effectively.

Different risks and side effects are associated with every anticonvulsant medicine. Moreover, majority of these medications also have a negative influence on the ability of the liver to break down other medicines and, hence, anticonvulsants are likely to affect the action of different medicines you may be taking from before.

Therefore, physicians always try to prescribe the lowest number of anticonvulsant medications to any patient with a view to diminish the chances of drug interactions.

People who are using anticonvulsant medications ought to be very cautious and take their dose without interruption and appropriately. If anticonvulsant medications are not taken regularly, it may result in a sudden fall in their levels in the body, thereby increasing the risks of seizures.

It is important to know that if you do not use inhibitory medications or drugs that keep epilepsy or seizures under control, the electrical activity of neurons will increase, which, in turn, will lead to seizures. As a result, people prone to epilepsy or fit should never reduce the dosage of their medication or stop their treatment abruptly and without consulting their physician.

In case it becomes necessary to stop the treatment, patients should check with their physician, who will advice them to decrease the dosage of the anticonvulsant medication gradually over several months before discontinuing it.

Moreover, it is essential for people taking anticonvulsant medications to always carry an identification tag with complete details of their health condition, treatment and medications they are using. This will be very useful in case they suffer an attack while they are outdoors and amid unknown people.

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