Chlorpromazine, the first antipsychotic medication: history, controversy and legacy

High Royds psychiatric hospital, West Yorkshire, England. This was a typical Victorian asylum. It opened in 1888 and at the end of the 19th century accommodated 1600 patients. The hospital finally closed in 2003.

Introduction The 1950s saw several new classes of medication enter psychiatric practice including the antipsychotics.   The term ‘antipsychotic’ refers to medicines or drugs that are primarily used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, though some antipsychotics can also be helpful in treating other mental health problems including severe depression. Chlorpromazine was the first antipsychotic and […]

The History of the BAP

In this article we briefly review the history of the BAP since its formation in 1974 to its current position as the largest national psychopharmacology association in Europe and the second largest in the world.  We also highlight its main activities.

MDMA ‘ecstasy’ and new designer drugs

3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy) was first synthesised and patented in 1912 as a precursor of other pharmacologically active compounds by the E. Merck company in Germany. It was examined by the US military in the 1950s, presumably as a chemical warfare agent since it is chemically related not only to other amphetamines but also mescaline. However the first report that it was psychoactive in humans was a paper in 1978 by Shulgin and Nichols. It rapidly became a well known ‘designer drug’; that is a compound with a chemical structural and pharmacological similarity to existing and illegal recreational drugs but, by being novel and not specifically listed, had escaped legal control. In 1985 the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classified MDMA as a Schedule 1 drug due to its high abuse potential and lack of known clinical use. The drug rapidly became illegal in most other countries but despite this its popularity surged often being taken at ‘rave’ or ‘techno’ dance clubs and parties. The peak of use came in the late 1980s and 1990s and a recent survey has suggested a marked decline in its popularity.