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Psychopharmacology: Essential Principles and Mechanisms Essay

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Updated: Oct 19th, 2020


Psychopharmacology is a scientific field of study that deals with the actions of drugs and the effect they bring about on peoples’ feelings. Feelings in this context refer to moods, behavior, sensation as well as their way of thinking.

The field also seeks to explain the reason behind disorders such as bi-polar disorders, unipolar as well as other mental related conditions. The province of Psychopharmacology also covers how various psychoactive drugs impact on human beings. The focus is primarily on how chemical reactions and interactions affect the brain. The psychoactive drugs usually have various consequences from the chemical reactions that come from it.

This essay seeks to analyze pharmacology and the reactions of chemicals that are obtained from different psychoactive drugs. The crux of the paper shall dwell into the main principles of Psychopharmacology and delve into the role that these play in the Psychopharmacology process. There are some foundational principles that underlie the whole province of Psychopharmacology. These include neurophysiological mechanisms which are the foundation mechanisms underlying the mood disorders. Also important to note is the role played by pathophysiology, pharmacokinetics as well as pharmacodynamics.

Essential Principles of Psychopharmacology

The main principles of psychopharmacology are pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics (Healy, 2004). “Pharmacokinetics can be simply defined as what and how the body does to the drug, this is opposed to pharmacodynamics which can be defined as what the drug does to the body (Tanter & Healy, 1998).”This will involve different agents and factors. These include hormonal agents, nutrient and even toxins.

These affect the pharmacology of psycho active drugs in different ways and to different extents. Pharmacokinetics is mainly concerned with studying the mechanisms that bring about absorption as well as the distribution of drugs which have been administered. Important to note is that the level at which drugs are absorbed contribute heavily on the level of effect that shall be felt by the person to whom such a drug was administered. It also covers the rate at which a certain drug action shall commence as well as monitoring the effect duration and any changes that are involved therein.

The other principle is pharmacodynamics. Pharmacodynamics deals mainly with how the drugs impact on the human body. It deals with the changes and how they are received in the human body to which a certain psycho active drug has been induced. This is concerned with receptor binding as well as signal binding. The receptor binding is mainly concerned with how these receptors accept the messages triggered to the brain. The transfer of these receptors is done through the neurophysiology. The concept of pharmacodynamics extends to Multi Cellular pharmacodynamics. This is a study which involves studying static as well as dynamic properties together with the relationship that exists between a set of drugs.

Pharmacodynamics has the concepts of receptor binding as well as signal binding. These are important in the processes that play a great role in the processes that facilitate the process of psychopharmacology. It is imperative to understand these in order to full understand the principles of psychopharmacology. Closely connected to this is pharmacodynamics. Pharmacodynamics refers to the field of study that deals with the general effects of psycho active drugs into the body. Unlike pharmacokinetics, which deals mainly with what the body does to drug to release the drug substance, pharmacodynamics is concerned the action that drug does to the body.

Drug-receptor interactions and dose-response relationships

Neurophysiology plays an important role in the psychopharmacology. Apart from playing the role of transmitting neurons as well as sensational messages to the brain,it also provides a basis for testing and a foundation for the measurement of different physiological process that are connected to the brain. When psychoactive drugs are induced into the body, the reception is transmitted to the brain via the neurophysiologic system.

Moods are determined by the status of the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers in the neurophysiologic system. They allow brain cells to communicate and form basis of moods (Kjølbye et al, 2007). Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin play a very important part in implication of depressions or a sad mood.

Pathophysiology is normally concerned with the changes that occur when the human body is disturbed. The human body may be disturbed through mechanical, biochemical or physiological changes. These may be induced through psychoactive drugs. The modern pathophysiology links the psychoactive drugs to the manner in which the human body is disturbed and the consequent behavior changes. These behaviour changes are what are eventually exhibited as the symptoms of bi polar or unipolar disorders.

Receptors in the body determine the quantitative relationship which exists between a certain drug dose and the expected or related pharmacological effect. These receptors are normally responsible for some selective drug action. Another role that these receptors play is that they mediate the actions between the pharmacologic agonists and the antagonists. Signal binding is the manner in which the messages being transmitted are recognized together. This is achieved when an agonist binds to a certain receptor. This binding then goes ahead and triggers receptor change. This is mainly the early steps towards production of a pharmacological effect.

Binding or coupling occurs whenever a transduction process which brings together receptor occupancy and drug response. Conformational change that occurs in the receptor normally plays a very important role in determining the efficiency of coupling. What this means is that agonists are considered to be more effective in coupling with receptor occupancy as compared to other partial agonists. Apart from that, it is possible to determine coupling efficiency through analyzing biochemical reactions that have the effect of transducing the receptor occupancy into the cellular response.

Pharmacokinetics establishes a mathematical basis and foundation which can be used to assess the time and reaction course of drug substances and their effects in the human body. It also offers a foundation which enables the processes of pharmacokinectics to be quantified (Preston et al, 2000). Quantification of these processes is important as it allows the determination of the effect that drugs shall have on a certain patient.


The providence of Psychopharmacology does not exist in isolation. It works hand in hand with the principles such as pharmacokinetics and phamarcodynamics. These are important as they define the manner in which these psychoactive drugs take effect. They also provide a basis upon which these processes can be quantified. In order to understand the Psychopharmacology, proper understanding of the principles underlying this must be fully understood (Ponterotto, 1985). The process which psychoactive drugs undergo in the human body is very complex. This is because it involves very many processes which take place in the human body.


Healy, D. (2004). The Creation of Psychopharmacology. NY: Harvard University Press.

Kjølbye A. L., Haugan, K, Hennan J. K, & Petersen, J.S. (2007) Pharmacological modulation of gap junction function with the novel compound rotigaptide: a promising new principle for prevention of arrhythmias. Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology. 101(4):215-30.

Ponterotto, J. G. (1985). A counselor’s guide to Psychopharmacology. Journal of Counseling and Development, 64 (1), 109–115.

Preston, J., O’Neal, J., & Talaga, M. (2000). Handbook of clinical psychopharmacology for therapists (2nd ed.). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Tanter, R., & Healy, D. (1998). Neuroleptic discontinuation syndrome. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 12 (1), 401–406.

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