A Brief History of Psychiatric Drug Development

1950s SK&F advert for chlorpromazine (marketed as Thorazine in the US).

The first major breakthroughs in the development of effective psychiatric drugs came in the years following the Second World War.  The introduction of effective anti-psychotics, to treat schizophrenia, and anti-depressants revolutionised how the mentally ill were cared for.  The ability to control the florid symptoms of psychotic episode in schizophrenia or break someone out of a deep depression was a major step forward.  For the first time many patients were able to live more ‘normal’ lives inside and on occasion outside of the confines of asylums and mental hospitals.  Patients with more developed and serious conditions experienced a slowing down of the worsening of their disorders.  A few suffers were even able to become treatment free as their illness appeared to disappear.