The contribution that drugs can make to the treatment of mental disorders forms the basis of psychopharmacology. Attention to the science reached a peak in the 1950s with the availability of hallucinogens, but mind-altering drugs have a long history. Ancient Greek scientists developed a concept that linked mental health to the eyes, ears and brain. Psychoactive agents such as antidepressants and antipsychotics can alleviate some symptoms of mental disorders.
Understanding the Work of a Psychopharmacologist
A psychopharmacologist prepares for prescribing psychotropic medications by obtaining extensive knowledge about the nervous system, mental illness and drug dosages. An understanding of the side effects and interactions that drugs can produce provides a basis for selecting drugs that can treat mental disorders. The blend of medical specialties qualifies a psychopharmacologist to diagnose mental conditions as well as treat them with drugs. Some professionals may perform research on drugs or evaluate their efficacy for pharmaceutical companies.
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Choosing a Professional Career in Psychopharmacology
With a foundation as a psychiatrist or physician, you can specialize in psychopharmacology. Treating mental disorders with drugs can provide rewarding challenges as you relieve the suffering that many patients endure. As a doctor, you initiate interaction with a patient by obtaining a medical history. You can make a diagnosis of an illness that you observe and provide an explanation to your patient. As you obtain information, you are qualified to recommend a treatment plan.
Other psychiatrists may refer clients to you to access benefits from your knowledge of pharmacology. Focusing on psychiatry as a specialty allows you to treat clients through psychoanalysis, counseling and hospitalization. Combining both specialties qualifies you to provide a full range of mental health services to clients who suffer from mental illess.
Your practice may allow you to work in a clinic or in a private office. Meeting with a patient at home or in a hospital may require you to extend your day beyond typical business hours. Responding to emergencies may call you to work at any time.
Following an Academic Path to a Psychopharmacology Degree
On the path to earning a psychopharmacological degree, you also earn an M.D. and a Ph.D. degree. At the undergraduate level, you can find challenging courses that provide a scientific foundation. Classes in biology, chemistry and mathematics can prepare you to enroll in new fields of study such as biostatistics, neuroscience, pharmacology and bioinformatics. Your four-year degree in a pre-med curriculum lets you specialize in a scientific field such as biological science, biomedical engineering, human physiology and chemistry.
With your undergraduate studies complete, you are ready to pursue a medical degree. During your first two years as a medical student, you attend classes on science, medicine and disease. As you progress, you can choose to take electives in psychiatry and pharmacology. Working as a clinical clerk in a hospital setting in your third and fourth years can give you invaluable experience. A residency program completes the requirements for your psychopharmacology degree.
Choosing to prepare for a career in relieving the suffering that mental disorders place on people requires a commitment of many years. Your course of study challenges you to expand your understanding of the human mind and body. By devoting your energies to academic studies, you can achieve a level of success that brings rewards that you deserve.