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Biological Treatments of Abnormality – Drug Therapy
Anti-anxiety drugs
These are drugs which aim to have a calming effect on the individual, particularly those who suffer
from panic attacks and extreme anxiety in stressful situations. Examples of Anti-anxiety drugs
include Benzodiazepines (BZs) which enhance the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA, which acts
to calm brain activity by inhibiting the neurones. Valium is an example of a common BZ.
Anti-depressant drugs
The biological approach assumes that faulty processes in the brain, to do with neurotransmitters,
are responsible for abnormality. The neurotransmitter thought to be involved with depression is
serotonin. It has been found that sufferers of depression have less than normal amounts of
serotonin in the brain. Anti-depressants therefore act by increasing serotonin levels in the brain,
such as SSRI’s and MAOIs, which prevent serotonin from being broken down by enzymes.
Anti-psychotic drugs
These are mainly prescribed to sufferers of schizophrenia who experience hallucinations and
delusions. Dopamine is thought to be the main neurotransmitter involved in Schizophrenia – there
is too much of it. Anti-psychotic drugs therefore lower the amount of dopamine in the brain by
blocking dopamine receptors. These alleviate psychotic symptoms.
Evaluation of drug therapy – Strengths or Weaknesses?
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Research has been found to support the effect of drugs on treating symptoms of abnormality
for the majority of cases. It is the most common treatment.
Drugs to not work on all patients therefore suggesting there is more involved than biological
abnormalities, causing a problem for the explanation and therefore the treatment.
Drug therapy can be used alongside psychological therapies such as CBT making treatment
for sufferers more targeted and more successful.
Drugs have many side effects which can be extremely difficult to deal with. For example,
antipsychotic drugs can cause Parkinson’s like symptoms – stiffness and tremors.
When drug treatment is stopped, the symptoms return, therefore suggesting that drugs
treat only the symptoms not the cause of the abnormal behaviour.
Drugs are quick and easy to administer meaning dangerous/harmful symptoms can be
reduced almost immediately.
There are many ethical issues involved with the use of drugs, particularly there use in mental
hospitals. Are they used to help treat patients or simply to sedate them so they’re easier to
deal with?