Why are doctors still prescribing neuroleptics?

QJM. 2006 Jun;99(6):417-20. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcl048.


There are two main pharmacological methods of suppressing undesired behaviour: sedation or neuroleptics. Traditionally, the invention of neuroleptics has been hailed as one of the major clinical breakthroughs of the twentieth century, since they calmed agitation without (necessarily) causing sedation. The specifically neuroleptic form of behavioural control is achieved by making patients psychologically Parkinsonian, which entails emotional blunting and consequent demotivation. Furthermore, chronic neuroleptic usage creates dependence, so that in the long term, neuroleptics are doing most patients more harm than good. The introduction of 'atypical' neuroleptics (neuroleptically-weak but strongly sedative neuroleptics) has made only a difference in degree, and at the cost of a wide range of potentially fatal metabolic and other side-effects. For half a century, the creation of millions of Parkinsonian patients may have been misinterpreted as a 'cure' for schizophrenia. Such a wholesale re-interpretation of neuroleptic therapy represents an unprecedented disaster for the self-image and public reputation of both psychiatry and the whole medical profession. Nonetheless, except as a last resort, neuroleptics should swiftly be replaced by gentler and safer sedatives.

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use
  • Parkinsonian Disorders / chemically induced
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives