Drugs Acting on the Brain and Nervous System

Many of the drugs that act on the brain and nervous system relieve symptoms such as pain, insomnia, and anxiety. Others treat the disorders that cause the symptoms. As understanding of the chemical changes that occur in disorders such as depression improves, treatment is becoming more effective.

The opening article in this section describes groups of drugs known as painkillers. Most of these drugs work by preventing pain signals from being produced or altering the way in which the brain perceives pain. Drugs for migraine are covered next, followed by general anaesthetic drugs, which induce unconsciousness so that no pain can be felt during surgery. Local anaesthetic drugs, which block the transmission of pain signals in a specific body part, are then discussed.

The next articles in this section cover anticonvulsant drugs, sleeping drugs, and antianxiety drugs. Most work by reducing electrical activity in the brain to relieve symptoms but do not treat the underlying disorder.

Antidepressant drugs, which are described next, work by increasing levels of chemicals in the brain that regulate mood. Reduced levels of these chemicals can usually be found in people who are depressed.

In the final articles, antipsychotic drugs, mood-stabilizing drugs, and central nervous system stimulants are described. All of these drugs work by altering chemical activity in the brain.

Key anatomy

For more information about the structure and function of the brain and nervous system, see Nervous System and Mental Function.


Antimigraine Drugs

General Anaesthetics

Local Anaesthetics

Anticonvulsant Drugs

Sleeping Drugs

Antianxiety Drugs

Antidepressant Drugs

Antipsychotic Drugs

Mood-stabilizing Drugs

Central Nervous System Stimulant Drugs

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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