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How Students Can Memorize Medications
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How Students Can Memorize Medications

Every year psychology students struggle to memorize which medications are given to people with which disorders.  This is understandable, because the names of these medications are even sometimes hard to pronounce (clorazapine).  The names are abstract and that makes them hard to connect with disorders like depression, anxiety, psychosis, etc.

 

The solution? Mnemonics.  Here are my suggestions for helping students memorize 12 medications and the disorders that are use to treat.


There are a lot of medications so I decided on the 12 below since they seem to be the ones that are most likely to be covered in an Intro Psych text.

 

Anxiety (Benzodiazepines):
    Ativan
    Xanax
    Klonapin
    
Depressants:
    Prozac
    Zoloft
    Effexor
        
Mood Stabilizing
    Lithium
    
Psychosis
    Thorazine
    clozapine
    risperidone

Stimulants
    Ritalin
    Adderall
    
Here's the mnemonic:

 

First, here’s an acronym that will help students remember these major 5 types of meds: SPAM’D

S - Stimulants
P - Anti-Psychotic
A - Anti-Anxiety
M - Mood Stabilizers
D - Anti-Depression
 
Once you can use this acronym to list out the 5 major categories, then you need a way to recall which drugs are used to treat that particular psychiatric disorder. So here is some imagery to help students remember which medications fall into which category:

Stimulants:
Drugs: Ritalin and Adderall
Imagery: let’s use the latter part of the word “stimulant” and use the image of a “mutant” (a “stim-mutant”). Imagine a mutant sitting at a dinner table. He's adding a role (Adderall) to his plate of grits (rit-alin).

Anti-Psychotic:
Drugs: Risperdone, Clorazapine, and Thorazine
Key image: a boy named Simon (SI-chotic)
Crazy Mnemonic Image: "Simon whispered (Risper-done) to Santa Claus (Cloraz-apine) that he wants a Thor doll (Thorazine) for Christmas"

Anxiety
Drugs: Atavan, Xanax and Klonapin
Key image: let’s use the first two letters in the word anxiety: An
Crazy Mnemonic Image: "I saw an Ant driving a Van (Ant-a-van) filled with clowns (Klon-apin) holding Axes (Xanax)"


Mood
Drug: Lithium
Key image: a cow (“moo…”)
Crazy mnemonic: picture a cow floating up into the sky.  The cow has a lot of colorful Helium balloons (closest I could come to Lithium) tied around him.

Depression
Drugs: Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, Wellbutrin
Mnemonic: "Zac went to the zoo and saw all the Wallaby's having sex and said, well, that's depressing!" Zac = Prozac, Zoo = Zoloft, Wallaby = Wellbutrin, Sex = Effexor
NOTE:  The word “Wallaby (a kind of kangaroo) is kind of a fun word to say and it resembles the word “Wellbutrin” in some ways, but if students aren't familiar with it that’s okay. Instead, use the word “Well” to remember the drug Wellbutrin.  So the sentence could be, “Zac went to the zoo and saw all the animals having sex and said, "Well, that's depressing!"

 

As always, mnemonics are silly, but I think these will help. 

NOTE: these mnemonics are designed ONLY to help students get better grades on their tests. There certainly is no desire here to belittle the seriousness of psychiatric disorders and their treatments.

 

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