Whether or not this next ASWB exam topic shows up on the exam or not, it will show up--and fast--in your day-to-day social work life: Common psychotropic and non-psychotropic prescriptions and over-the-counter medications and their side effects. There's a lot to know and a lot worth knowing. Let's take a look a the basics and how the topic may appear on the licensing exam.

Common Meds 

Here's an overview of common prescriptions, OTC medications, along with some of their potential side effects:

Psychotropic Medications

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs):

    • Examples: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), Escitalopram (Lexapro)
    • Side effects: Nausea, headache, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, weight gain, gastrointestinal disturbances.
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs):

    • Examples: Venlafaxine (Effexor), Duloxetine (Cymbalta), Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
    • Side effects: Similar to SSRIs, plus increased blood pressure, sweating, and risk of serotonin syndrome.
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs):

    • Examples: Amitriptyline (Elavil), Nortriptyline (Pamelor), Imipramine (Tofranil)
    • Side effects: Dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, urinary retention, weight gain, sedation, cardiac effects (e.g., arrhythmias), orthostatic hypotension.
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs):

    • Examples: Phenelzine (Nardil), Tranylcypromine (Parnate), Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
    • Side effects: Hypertensive crisis (if consumed with tyramine-containing foods), dizziness, headache, insomnia, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal disturbances.
  • Atypical Antipsychotics:

    • Examples: Risperidone (Risperdal), Quetiapine (Seroquel), Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
    • Side effects: Weight gain, metabolic effects (e.g., diabetes risk), sedation, extrapyramidal symptoms (e.g., tardive dyskinesia), hyperprolactinemia, cardiovascular effects.
  • Benzodiazepines:

    • Examples: Diazepam (Valium), Lorazepam (Ativan), Alprazolam (Xanax)
    • Side effects: Sedation, drowsiness, confusion, cognitive impairment, respiratory depression, dependence, withdrawal symptoms.

Non-Psychotropic Prescriptions

  • Antihypertensive Medications:

    • Examples: Amlodipine (Norvasc), Lisinopril (Prinivil), Metoprolol (Lopressor)
    • Side effects: Dizziness, hypotension, headache, fatigue, cough, electrolyte imbalances.
  • Antihyperlipidemic Medications (for Cholesterol):

    • Examples: Atorvastatin (Lipitor), Simvastatin (Zocor), Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
    • Side effects: Muscle pain or weakness (myopathy), liver dysfunction, gastrointestinal disturbances.
  • Antidiabetic Medications:

    • Examples: Metformin (Glucophage), Glipizide (Glucotrol), Insulin (various types)
    • Side effects: Hypoglycemia, gastrointestinal disturbances, weight gain, lactic acidosis (with metformin).

Over-the-Counter Medications

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs):
    • Examples: Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), Naproxen (Aleve), Aspirin
    • Side effects: Gastric irritation, ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding, renal impairment, increased cardiovascular risk.
  • Antihistamines:

    • Examples: Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Loratadine (Claritin), Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
    • Side effects: Drowsiness, dry mouth, blurred vision, urinary retention, constipation.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol):

    • Side effects: Liver toxicity (with overdose), gastrointestinal disturbances (rare), allergic reactions.
  • Laxatives:

    • Examples: Psyllium (Metamucil), Bisacodyl (Dulcolax), Polyethylene glycol (Miralax)
    • Side effects: Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, electrolyte imbalances, dependency.
  • Antacids:

    • Examples: Calcium carbonate (Tums), Aluminum hydroxide (Maalox), Magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia)
    • Side effects: Constipation (with aluminum-based antacids), diarrhea (with magnesium-based antacids), electrolyte imbalances.

On the Exam

Questions on the ASWB exam covering this material might look like this--or a vignette variation on one of these:

  • Which class of medications is typically prescribed to treat schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders?
  • Which of the following is a potential side effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)?
  • Which of the following medications is commonly used to treat opioid addiction and prevent relapse?

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May 17, 2024
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