General principles of clinical psychopharmacology

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this module you should be able to:


  • describe the historical development of psychotropic drugs


  • identify the pioneers of the major psychotropics


  • list the classifications of psychotropic drugs


  • describe the placebo effect and the importance of controlling for it


  • outline ways in which medication adherence can be improved


  • demonstrate the principles and processes of rational prescribing of psychoactive drugs.


Module introduction

Psychopharmacological intervention plays a major role in treating patients suffering with mental illness.


The use of psychoactive substances has long been known for treating acutely agitated individuals and those with severe and enduring mental illnesses. Knowing the fundamental principles behind the origins of psychotropic medication and its current uses is absolutely essential for psychiatrists.


Confidence in prescribing is likely to be gained through knowledge of the current NICE guidelines, as well as awareness of adverse drug reactions and cautions, drug interactions and comorbid conditions such as diabetes or cardiac disease.


The use of psychotropic medication has changed with time, so it is important for psychiatrists to be aware of the advances in psychopharmacological treatments. 


Learning notes

We recommend that you make some notes as you work through this module.


The 'TrOn Notebook' facility can be accessed throughout the module (allowing you to make notes on each page), and these notes will be saved in your personal area 'My TrOn', for future reference. However, you will not be able to print these notes as one single document.


If you would prefer to make your notes in a separate document you may wish to download the 'learning notes' below. This downloadable Word document will allow you to keep a personalised record of your learning, which you can then save and/or print for future reference.


Download the learning notes document for this module


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