Synthetization of Chlorpromazine
The discovery in the 1950s of the antipsychotic and antidepressant effect of certain synthetic compounds (chlorpromazine was the first) and the subsequent introduction of prescription psychotropic drugs gave rise to the claim that mental illness is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain (Whitaker 2010).
History of Chlorpromazine
Chlorpromazine was synthesized on December 11, 1951 by Paul Charpentier, in the laboratories of Rhône-Poulenc, a French pharmaceutical company, and released for clinical investigation in May 1952 as a possible potentiator of general anesthesia (Charpentier et al. 1952).
The potential use of CPZ in psychiatry was first recognized by Henri Laborit (1952), a surgeon and physiologist in the French army, in the course of his research with artificial hibernation in the prevention of surgical shock. In collaboration with Huguenard and Alluaume, he employed the drug as an adjunct to surgical anesthetics (“anesthetic cocktail,” “lytic cocktail”) because of its body temperature lowering effect. [...]
Since cooling with water had been used in France for controlling agitation (Burger 1976), Laborit was able to persuade Hamon, Paraire and Velluz at the neuropsychiatric service of Val de Grâce, the military hospital in Paris, to try CPZ in the treatment of one of their patients (Caldwell 1970). Jacques Lh., a 24-year-old severely agitated psychotic (manic) male was the first psychiatric patient to receive CPZ; he was administered 50 mg of the drug, intravenously, at 10 am, on January 19, 1952. The calming effect of CPZ was immediate but since it lasted only a few hours several treatments were required before the patient’s agitation was controlled.
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