Antipsychotic medications, sometimes referred to as neuroleptics or major tranquilizers, are drugs that lessen and/or eliminate hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and delusions. There are a large number of these medications, divided into two categories, typical and atypical.
The term typical refers to the older group of medications that first came about with the discovery of chlorpromazine (Thorazine). The atypicals are a newer family of antipsychotics that have somewhat different mechanisms of action in the brain and a differing set of side effects. There is currently a great deal of interest and research into the risks and benefits of the various antipsychotic medications. In recent years there has been a trend to prescribe the newer (atypical) antipsychotics almost exclusively.
Large-scale studies, and a few lawsuits, are now questioning this practice. So understanding the risks and benefits of the different medications becomes less a question of which one works best, but more a matter of choice, cost, and tolerability of side effects.