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Mastering Mnemonics for the USMLE: Neuro/Psych Drugs

Dr. Brian Radvansky and Dr. Taylor Purvis contributed to this post.

Neuro/Psych drugs! Here are some mnemonics to help get a handle on a few of the 217 neuro and psych drugs you need to know—particularly for your USMLE.

Topic: How to remember Alzheimer treatment meds

Mnemonic: “I DonTactually remember.”

So, you can’t remember which drugs can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease? Be honest with yourself and your peers, and tell them:

Don = Donepezil, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.
Tac = Tacrine, a sadly discontinued acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.

Topic: Anti-Spasm Drugs

Mnemonic: He would be way better off if he were at home, BacLoafin’ around.

Now, let’s say a patient of yours is suffering some spasms. You probably want him to be able to relax.

Yes, of course! Baclofen, used to treat spasms, and, like many “relaxing” drugs, does so via GABA agonoism.

Topic: Mood Stabilizers

Mnemonic: What could be more mood-stabilizing than sitting down in the grass, and searching for a 4-leaf CLOVer.

We use the first 4 letters in CLOVer and end up with:

Lamotrigine & Lithium
Valproic Acid

When your mood is labile, you need a MOOD STABILIZER.

Topic: Smoking Cessation

Mnemonic: Your patient is willing to admit that smoking is Very Bad and will try a medication to quit.

OK! Like any good [student] doctor, you are employing the technique of motivational interviewing to assess whether your patient is ready to quit smoking.

You can recommend:

Varenicline or Bupropion

And anytime we talk about bupropion, we can’t help but think of “that other psych medication that begins with B…

Topic: Anxiety medication

Mnemonic: What do many people drink when they need to quell some anxiety? Booze(pirone).

BUSPIRONE! Recall its indication…used in the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Both booze and busipirone will take the edge off. We can even get fancy and use its trade name, Buspar. No better place to get that booze than down at the BoozeBar….

Topic: SSRI Drugs for Depression, Anxiety, OCD & PTSD

Mnemonic: Effective For Compulsions, Panic & Sadness.

What about those common medications for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder? The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Remember that these drugs are:

Effective: Escitalopram

For: Fluoxetine

Compulsions: Citalopram

Panic: Paroxetine

Sadness: Sertraline

Topic: SNRI Drugs

Mnemonic: Depressed & Vexed

Medications used for similar mental health conditions are selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs. Like for SSRIs, these are used in patients who feel:

Depressed: Duloxetine, Desvenlafaxine

Vexed: Venlafaxine