Moreover, knowledge about the chemistry of this natural plant stimulated the synthesis of other similar alkaloids that were later used as major tranquilizers.
The advent of neuroleptics is sometimes identified as a turning point in the practice of psychiatry because it made possible for the first time the treatment and control of mentally ill people outside an institutional setting.
In most developed countries, a large percentage of the people suffering, or in remission, from psychosis are treated in the community.
This community-based treatment depends almost entirely on dosing with neuroleptics.
Rauwolfia was long used in India for the treatment of mental illness (especially paranoia and schizophrenia) and known to medicine men and locals as the "insanity herb." And although the plant was well known in India—Ghandi sometimes sipped tea made from its leaves—Westerners paid little attention to it until an Indian physician wrote an article about it in 1943. Reserpine rapidly replaced induced insulin shock therapy (injecting patients with insulin until their blood sugar levels fall so low that the they become comatose), electroconvulsive (ECT) therapy (inducing seizures by passing an electric current through the brain), and lobotomy (making an incision in the lobe of the brain) as treatments for certain types of mental illness.
The bromides are gastric irritants with a narrow safety margin and may cause a chronic toxicity known as bromism.
Barbiturates (a class of drugs with more effective sedative-hypnotic effects) replaced bromides in 1903.
As opposed to medications prescribed for sedation, the neuroleptics often produce signs of neurological dysfunction, such as extrapyrimidal effects (involuntary movements such as Parkinson-like tremors and other abnormal movements).
The term "antipsychotics" is sometimes used because these drugs are generally used to treat symptoms of paranoia, psychosis, or serious distortions in the perception of reality, such as hallucinations or delusions. The term "minor tranquilizer" (which has been replaced by the more precise terms "sedative-hypnotic" or "anxiolytic") refers to drugs used to treat conditions such as insomnia and anxiety.