How Do Serotonin-Dopamine Activity Modulators (SDAMs) Work?

Reviewed on 11/16/2021

How Do Serotonin-dopamine Activity Modulators (SDAMs) Work?

Serotonin-dopamine activity modulators (SDAMs) are medications prescribed for the treatment of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. SDAMs improve psychiatric symptoms by modulating the activity of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood and emotions.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that nerve cells (neurons) release to transmit nerve signals. Each neurotransmitter binds to specific types of receptors on neuronal membranes. Receptors are protein molecules that initiate downstream action within the cell in response to stimulation by the particular neurotransmitter.

Known as the "happy hormone," dopamine regulates the brain’s reward system and is responsible for the sensation of pleasure, in addition to other functions including movement, emotions and cognition. Serotonin plays a vital role in most systems in the body including regulation of sleep, digestion, cognition, mood and behavior.

SDAMs modulate serotonin and dopamine neurotransmission by enhancing the activity of inhibitory receptors and blocking excitatory receptors. Some SDAMs also have effects on other neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, another neurotransmitter involved in mood, attention and energy.

Each SDAM works in unique ways that include the following:

  • Act as a partial agonist at D2 dopamine receptors, which are excitatory, and 5-HT1A serotonin receptors, which are inhibitory. Partial agonists enhance or block receptor activity depending on the neurotransmitter concentration levels.
  • Act as an antagonist at 5-HT2A serotonin receptors, which are excitatory. Antagonists block receptor activity, while agonists enhance receptor activity.
  • Act as an antagonist at D2 and 5-HT2A receptors, both of which are believed to be involved in psychosis.

Some SDAMs are combined with opioid antagonists to mitigate their side effect of weight gain. Opioid antagonists bind to opioid receptors on certain neurons known as pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), which prevents the feedback of hunger sensation from the body.

How Are Sserotonin-dopamine Activity Modulators Used?

SDAMs are oral tablets or capsules used in the treatment of the following conditions:

What Are Side Effects of Serotonin-dopamine Activity Modulators?

Side effects of SDAMs may include the following:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

What Are Names of Some Serotonin-dopamine Activity Modulator Drugs?

Generic and brand name of SDAM drugs include:


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